Media and Art · Studio

New painting: up from below

Here you go.

I’ve just finished this, and my wee little brain is too fried to talk about it.


up from below, 36 x 52 inches. Acrylic and graphite on paper.


Media and Art · Personal Entries

A toe in the pool of prepubescent crazy

We have two weeks of stuff to cover here, so let’s all pipe down and focus, shall we?

We have field trips with insane preteens,  a class mural,  swearing off dating forever and ever until I die and the pixie haircut which accompanied this decision,  and a graduation or two.   Where shall we start?

Although I’ve worked myself up into quite a state thinking about the haircut and the swearing-off dating,  I’ll start with the mural because it gives you something to look at.   Complaining about my bad attitude towards dating has no visual hook.

This year, as I have in previous years, I offered to do a painting with Matt’s class.  The idea is this: I provide all the materials, and guide the kids through the process of creating a large-scale collaborative painting.  I provide the steadying adult voice of reason, and they make all the decisions and do all the work.

After much brainstorming and voting, the kids decided to paint an amusement park scene,  anchoring the painting with a horizon line and a roller coaster, and setting the scene at night.  They would all add their own elements to the painting, and each would also draw themselves on the roller coaster.   They worked together to come up with a strong, cohesive theme, and I was impressed.

Which is why I’m so, so baffled about how we ended up with this:

Click to enlarge this fabulousness: 5th grade Amusement Park, 4 ft x 7.5 ft. Acrylic and watercolor on Arches paper.

An amusement park with an erupting volcano, under attack from nine space ships, three dragons, two bears, and many, many zombies.    I had no idea how much time zombies spend at amusements parks.

I’ve learned some things about fifth-graders:  They’ve dipped a toe in the pool of pubescent crazy.  They like to draw very, very small.  Their collective goal is to out-funny one another.  They don’t do collaborative. They erase each other’s preliminary drawings, and this goes about as well as you’re imagining it does.

1.  This, blogosphere, is Tiger Woods on the moon, in a bikini.  His golf club is floating away, and that’s why he’s shouting, “Nooo!”   “Let’s draw all his girlfriends, too!” Said the fifth-graders. “Nooo,” said Ms. Stein.

2.  This pretty little clock and the things drawn around it are the work of a very sweet autistic boy who joins the class for much of the day.  The kids collectively bossed him about his clock being off-theme.  When he left, they all started drawing clocks.  I urged them to erase their clocks, and they took this to mean that they should erase anyone else’s work that they didn’t like.

3.  Bears!

4. “Honey, what is that?” I asked.   “A volcano,”  she said. OK.  By this point I had realized that artistic coherence was a pipe-dream.

4.5.  “I’m confused about why you’re drawing ice cream cones in the sky.”   “I like drawing ice cream cones.” Later, these became ice cream cone rockets.

5.  An upside-down zombie paratrooper with an ice cream cone instead of a parachute.   This drawing was explained to me at the time, but because fifth-graders all talk at once, all I heard was, “MS. STEIN HE ERASED MY CAN I PAINT NOW ZOMBIE PARACHUTE FAIRY ROLLER COASTER FALLING HAHAHAHAHA BEARS!!!!!”

6.  This family of zombies did not make sure they were securely belted in before the ride started.  Luckily, they are the walking dead and so their fall can’t kill them.

7.  Several things are happening in this part of the picture.

a.  A dragon is heating up some pizza.  The dragon was drawn by child A, and the pizza was drawn by child B.  Child B did not discuss the addition of pizza with child A, and child A was not pleased.  Pizza made a mockery of the dragon.

b. Medusa and Frankenstein are getting married.  I have no idea.


The kids, somehow, came away from all that lovely planning with the message, “Go forth and draw twenty-three different pictures!  Make it as random as you can!”  Amused, shell-shocked, baffled; halfway through the first day I caught Matt’s teacher’s eye.

“Wow,” I said, shaking my head in disbelief.

“I know!”  She said excitedly, “this is the best they’ve worked together all year!

Teachers are not paid nearly enough.





Really, I’ve been so sluttish in my blogging,  I don’t know how you can stand it.  I’d be quite disgusted with me if I were you.

Things have been a-swirlin’ in my head;  swirling and swirling, around and around, never slowing enough to gel.   Not swirling in a random way, but in a swept-up, powerfully rushing, churning, spring-melt river kind of way.

I’ve been painting again.

His river runs through me. 43 x 52 inches. Acrylic on canvas

When I decided to switch mediums –to make my painting amateur and my metal professional– I hoped that one of the consequences of this decision would be that I’d become a better painter.  Painting is costly for me; it takes a lot out of me because I care so much.  Add to that the pressure of necessary professional or academic success in painting, and it was not a tenable way of life.  I remember one of my painting professors, Michael Simpson, telling my class, “I need you all to dig deeper.  Except Katie.  Katie, don’t dig so deep.”  I’ve always been an advocate of ripping myself to shreds if that’s what it takes to do a job right.

In taking the pressure off of my painting by switching to metals in order to make a living,  I hoped to reduce the pressure on my painting and make it less costly and more of a joy.  And in that  joy I hoped to paint better.  But building a business takes everything, and I’ve been happy to rip myself to shreds to do that job right.  There hasn’t been energy to paint.  I haven’t thought in painting,  I haven’t dreamed painting; where would I find the extra time and energy?

And then, suddenly, I did.  As running a business becomes more familiar to me,  the newly freed-up brain power has spontaneously returned to painting.   Not painting for the sake of an assignment or a degree, not painting for the sake of furthering a career in painting, but painting for the sake of needing to purge my mind of its visual thoughts.  Visual metaphors, visual equations, visual understanding of the world.  People often say artists create to become immortal, and that’s the silliest thing I’ve ever heard.  Artists create because they have a insanely strong compulsion to communicate in an aesthetic language.  To process, to understand through doing, to solve puzzles they didn’t realize their minds were struggling to complete.

I don’t know what I think of this piece, and it’s not at all what I thought I’d end up with.  There are components I’d like to keep and work with again (the lines, the concept), and components I’d like to lose (contrast, the darkness).


What were you thinking!?

Oh my gosh, did you forget to enter the Monsterbling Contest?  You did, didn’t you?  Because you’re drunk again, right?  That’s what I thought.   OK, you need to stop that and we can talk about that some other time, but in the meantime you seriously need to submit a monster, ok?  Seriously.  Only one day left and all.

OK, as you were.


Monster time!

Monsterbling time! 

Yes, yes, I know.  I haven’t posted pics of the pendant, and I will.  Cripes.  Nagging naggers.

For those of you riddled with self-doubt, let me go all Art Mommy on you for a moment. Ready?  Close your eyes and picture me holding a plate of brownies and wearing an apron.  In person I look just like a young Sophia Loren,  or maybe Penelope Cruz.  Go with that image.  And for those of you who have sent me emails telling my how hot I am?  Make sure I’m fully clothed under that apron, K?:


Pookiepants, of course you can draw/sculpt/photoshop/sew/knit/needlepoint a monster!  You’ve always been so talented!  Remember when you were little and you used to play with Legos for hours and hours?  So creative!  And I know I had to take your crayons away because you wouldn’t stop eating them, but before that?  You drew the most beautiful pictures!  Remember how we had one of your pictures made into a Christmas card, and everyone just raved about my little Picasso?  I was so proud!  You’re brilliant! 


But I guess if you  had your eyes closed you couldn’t read all that, huh?  And you wouldn’t be reading this, either.  Hmmm. 

I’m monstrously excited about the contest (see what I did there?), and I’m looking forward to plastering the walls of my studio with the images everyone sends in, so….get sending!

Enter early and often, and the more the merrier!

The rundown on the contest is here.

Personal Entries

Canada, let’s work this out

Canada, Canada, Canada.  I’m shaking my head already, and you haven’t even done anything.  Yet.

Yesterday, Shmarla commented that the upcoming Monsterbling Contest might offer you a chance to redeem yourself.  You know what I’m talking about Canada, don’t you? I’m referring to The Bad Ring Contest of last spring, when I didn’t see a single entry from the entire country of Canada.

That wasn’t nice, Canada.  It was as if I threw a neighborhood picnic and you, my next door neighbors, didn’t attend.  Not only did you not attend, you didn’t even RSVP, and then you came outside and sat on your patio and pretended my picnic wasn’t going on.

I know you’re there, Canada.  My blog stats tell me you’re reading this blog, and another, less well-adjusted goldsmith might have taken your lack of participation personally.  I don’t tend to take things personally; I think this is a Canada-owned problem.   It’s not me, it’s you.

In the spring, one Canadian reader wrote to suggest that maybe Canada was just too nice to enter The Bad Ring contest.  OK.  I hear you.  You are an exceedingly well-mannered nation, and perhaps it was too much to ask you to condemn and insult a piece of jewelry in order to participate in the contest.  Perhaps your Canadian minds just don’t think like that (but Australia?  Wow!  Wowwy wow, wow, wow).

But Canada, I do want you to know I was thinking of you when I created the Monsterbling Contest.  All you need to do is draw a monster, sculpt a monster, paint a monster; whatever!  And you’re in.  Drawing monsters is in your lexicon of acceptable behaviors, isn’t it?

I did my research and found that Canadian folklore is full of monsters!  Monsters everywhere!  You can’t throw a hockey puck without hitting a monster!  You have lutins in Quebec, furry fish sea and lake  serpentsOld Yellow Top and Waheela.  You’ve done quite well for yourselves in the monster department, and so I know you have it in you, Canada.

Let’s put The Bad Ring contest behind us and work together.  I have a pretty pendant, you have a wealth of Canuk-y minds full of monster-creativity; let’s make a little magic, ok?

I love you Canada.  Let’s work this out.


Monsterbling Contest!

It’s time for the Monsterbling Contest! Yay!

The lowdown: Submit an image of a monster between November 5 and November 15, and may the best monster win.

Draw it, collage it, paint it, Photoshop it.   Sew it, build it, sculpt it and take a picture of it!   Use whatever medium you like, and send me an image of it when you’re done.  Keep it simple or make it a masterpiece; sophistication is not necessary, and I hope to see work of all levels of expertise.  Scary monsters, funny monsters, sad monsters…..all are welcome.

The prize?  A 14k gold, handforged sapphire necklace: the Roman Sapphire Necklace.

It’ll be like the necklace below, but you know, with a sapphire.  A pretty blue sapphire. It will be so pretty you will cry, and so I will send the winner some tissues with their pendant.  I’m still waiting for that stinker to come in, but I will have the necklace done by the time the contest begins, and I will post it then.  That’s why I’m not taking entries until November 5th: because the rat bastard sapphire hasn’t come in yet.

L: pretty sapphire which is taking its sweet time getting here. R: The Roman Pendant

Monsterbling Contest Rules

1. Email entries to:   Entries will be accepted from November 5, 2009 through November 15, 2009.   I will announce the winner on November 18, 2009.

2. There is no limit to how many monsters you may enter into the contest.

3.  All work must be original and your own.

4.  All ages are invited to enter, but if you are under the age of 18 you may not enter without the permission of your parent or guardian.

5.  The winning entry is decided at my personal discretion with the help of friends and a bottle of Chianti.  The winner is final.

6.  Let’s keep our monsters PG-Rated, ok?

7.  The prize necklace is not for resale.

8. Entries must be in JPEG format or included in the body of the email.  Please include your full name, and the email address where I may reach you to confirm shipping information should you win. If you are unable to be reached within 3 days of winning, you forfeit your win. Your last name and email will be kept private, and this information will neither be shared nor used for solicitation purposes.

9.  Images may be posted on this blog or on Vakadesign’s Flickr page, and by entering your image into the contest you give Vakadesign permission to make public your monster image in this manner.

10.  By submitting an entry to the Monsterbling Contest, you agree to these rules and understand the spirit of this fun, friendly competition. You will not hold me responsible if you lose this give-away,  or appeal for a new decision.  This is a give-away everyone, so let’s not get all hard-core.  If I am asked to clarify any of these rules, I will do so on the Monsterbling Contest page of the blog.

Monster questions, anyone?


Monsters and free rings

So, I’ve been thinking about monsters. 

After I had a glass of wine the other night I decided that I REALLY need a faux fur rug.  But like a muppet faux fur rug.  As if the local menfolk hunted down a scary yet wildly beautiful large muppet monster who was terrorizing the local villagers, and then made a trophy rug out of it.  Feet sticking out the sides, claws still on.  Head attached, you know the drill.  Big enough that I can lay it in front of my fireplace and maybe seduce the sweet man upon it, but that is none of your business, blogosphere.

And then, because my brain goes willy-nilly in twelve directions at all times, thoughts shot out from the original thought like spokes from the hub of a wheel.

My thoughts:


I haven’t done a contest in a while, and contests are like parties.  I like parties.

Maybe I could do a contest where I swap a ring for a rug…..

No, too complicated.  Forget the rug.

Maybe I should ask readers to create new monsters, and then I’ll have tons of monster pictures and I can collage them all together to make one giant wall-sized monster picture to hang in my studio. I would LOVE that!

I’ll give the ring to the creator of the best monster!


When I call Karen the next day to tell her of my idea, she is very supportive. “Now, what kind of wine were you drinking?”

Chianti, and Karen is just jealous because I’m a fawn.

And so my ducklings, I think we’re going to do this, but I’d love your input. 

My idea:  A pretty sapphire ring goes to the creator of the best, most creative monster.  Entrants email me images of the monsters they’ve created: drawn, photoshopped, photos of modeling clay monsters, stuffed monsters…..

So, what do you think?   Guide me, my little Obi Wans.