Saturday, December 28, 2013

best friends forever

linocut BFF greeting card

“We'll be Friends Forever, won't we, Pooh?' asked Piglet.
Even longer,' Pooh answered.”
― A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh

This past week I finished my BFF linocut which I am printing as greeting cards.

I hope everyone had a wonderful week. I can't believe the New Year is just days away!

joining sunday sketches

Sunday, December 22, 2013

risk, freedom and love

risk, freedom, and love
"risk, freedom, and love," linocut, wip print

You were born together, and together you shall be forevermore....
But let there be spaces in your togetherness,
And let the winds of the heavens dance between you.

Kahlil Gibran

I finished this linocut of two astronauts in love a couple of weeks ago. I have been debating whether to leave the background or add stars, the suit's life lines and a heart.

Using test prints, I added different elements to the print. However, the added elements seemed to take away rather than improve, and I kept coming back to the linocut as it was. I think I really liked the look of two people floating in space together and letting the viewer piece everything together in her own mind.

Today, I once more toyed around with the print in gimp and went down to get some feedback on to add or not to add from my husband. Without knowing which way I was leaning, he also felt adding nothing was the way to go. And he gave me the idea for the title.

So .... now I am looking forward to printing this linocut in the coming days.

wishing everyone a creative week and joining sunday sketches

Saturday, December 14, 2013

december journal pages

dec journal page letting go
december journal page one, wings and scrolls

Life is a pure flame, and we live by an invisible sun within us.
Sir Thomas Browne

This month's prompt over at one year art journal is Fall and Change and comes inspired by the winter solstice. I ended up doing four journal pages for this prompt.

The first page has a figure line drawing with wings that is letting go of two scrolls. Using a bamboo reed pen, walnut ink and sumi ink, I wrote some notes of things I want to let go this year onto some onion skin paper and rolled that up and bound it to the page with some wire. The winged figure's hand rests just above the scrolls, open and letting go.

dhow december journal page
page two, december journal page, dhow and thoughts

Page two has some thoughts I wrote at the beginning of Autumn and a figure drawn in walnut ink with my bamboo reed pen on a vintage dictionary page. I left the dhow visible as a sign that life is a journey.

mi ayuda journal page
page three, mi ayuda poem and deer drawing

Page three has a deer line drawing in pen and watercolor along with some thoughts that I wrote down while listening to a spanish song. Sir Thomas Browne's quote, that I mentioned earlier, sums up pretty much what I was trying to capture that night when I wrote down these thoughts. The translation follows the original.


Mi ayuda runs through the forest
aqui mi pongo la buena pieces
that lie perfectly still
waiting for hasta quando
pasan the minutes needed
to form them into a shape
que baila con mi corazon
en un sueno magico.
Levante siempre mi espiritu
knowing they wait, never
impatient or judgemental.
Mientras mi ayuda siempre
here and holding on.

While my Guidance runs through the forest, here I put the good pieces that lie perfectly still waiting until the minutes needed pass to form them into a shape that dance with my heart in a magic dream. My spirit lifts always knowing they wait, never impatient or judgemental. While my guidance is always here and holding on.

birdwings journal page december
page four, december journal page, hands and rumi

And finally, page four is what I started the week thinking on, that is, Rumi's poem titled Birdwings. For this page I used gesso, acrylics, pastels, charcoal, black and white ink pens. Here are the journal pages in full!

december journal page one, two and three
pages one, two and three, december art journal
december journal page one and four
december art journal, pages one and four

Thanks for stopping by! joining a year in the life of an art journal and sunday sketches. Find the links below.

Sunday, December 1, 2013


birdwings wip figure sketch
female figure, pencil sketch

Your grief for what you've lost lifts a mirror
up to where you are bravely working.

Expecting the worst, you look, and instead,
here's the joyful face you've been wanting to see.

Your hand opens and closes and opens and closes.
If it were always a fist or always stretched open, you would be paralysed.

Your deepest presence is in every small contracting and expanding,
the two as beautifully balanced and coordinated as birdwings.


Jacopo Pontormo, three male figures study

I read this Rumi poem, translated by Coleman Barks, a couple of weeks ago which I love for it's beautiful imagery of change and rebirth. This week I came across Pontormo's figure drawing in the book, Anatomy lessons from the great Masters, by Robert Beverly Hale & Terence Coyle.. Together they have inspired an idea of figures folding in and out like bird's wings. So there begins my next project!

I love the lines and movement in Pontormo's figure studies. He became orphaned at the age of 13, and shortly thereafter was placed in an apprenticeship with Da Vinci and then, in the year 1512, with Andrea del Sarto.

If you enjoy reading artist biographies, I recommend Vasari's Lives. And thanks to the Gutenberg Project you can now read Vasari's Lives online.

Exerpt on Pontormo:

In the meantime Signor Alfonso Davalos, Marchese del Vasto, having obtained from Michelagnolo Buonarroti by means of Fra Niccolo della Magna a cartoon of Christ appearing to the Magdalene in the garden, moved heaven and earth to have it executed for him in painting by Pontormo, Buonarroti having told him that no one could serve him better than that master ...
joining sunday sketches

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Studio and Linocut updates

This past summer I rearranged my studio so that I could have a standing work table and a sitting work table. The problem was my sitting work table is long with lots of space. That space invariably attracted a messy chaos of stuff which left me fighting off the mess while trying to be creative at the same time.

I decided to bring the table from our patio inside. With the shorter days, we're no longer eating dinner outside. So now I have one short table, one long table and one tall table.

working tables, one for printing, drawing etc,  and the other for just printed or wip's

My brilliant moment came when I decided the long table will always be my messy table. I can organize what's on the messy table when I feel like it and not when I am trying to work out an idea!

the messy art table/ desk with my trusty Tapatio nearby

This past week I spent a couple of days measuring and cutting rice paper followed by printing and more printing. Here's a taste of what I've been up to this week.

crow I
Crow I, linocut with branches collage

crow II
linocut, black crow II

linocut mars set up
rolling out the block printing ink

linocut mars wip
pulling the print off of the block

linocuts drying
just printed and drying

The birds are available in my tictail shop, and I'll have the rest of the linocuts available within the next few days.

I had a productive week and hope you had a good week too.

linking up with sunday sketches

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Art Journal pages, looking forward

october 2013 journal page
journal pages, October 2013

There is a candle in your heart,
ready to be kindled.

There is a void in your soul,
ready to be filled.

You feel it, don't you.

I spent the early afternoon finishing my journal page for this month's prompt, Struggle, over at A Year in the Life of an Art Journal.

Left Page
Various papers, my handwritten note, one of my linocut circle stamps, gesso and acrylics.

Right Page
Self-Portrait photograph, Rumi Quote, circles stamped using the bottom of a wine bottle, found clasp, and acylics.

I ended the afternoon with a ride to the park and and a run in the woods. I love riding and running in the crisp air. I'm enjoying Autumn in full color here and wishing everyone a good weekend.

also joining Sunday Sketches and Glue it Tuesday (see links below)

Saturday, October 19, 2013

postcard mail art

postcard mail art Oct 2013
mail art postcard

While I happily await my latest supply order for linocut supplies, I am making do with scraps from my last order. Today, I made a simple "hello" stamp which I used on a page from a Japanese book. I added that to the postcard mail art that I'll be sending my Uncle next week.

Thank you for all your sweet congratulations last week on my book feature. There is still time to enter Seth Apter's drawing for a copy of his latest book. Just hop on over to his blog for details (30/30 link in side bar).

 joining sunday sketches and glue it tuesday.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

The Mixed Media Artist Book

page from The Mixed Media Artist book

Last year I was invited to complete two new art works to be included in Seth Apter's second book, The Mixed-Media Artist, highlighting artists and their creative processes.  His recent book expands on the first book's collection with art works from over 40 artists as well as art tutorials, artist tips and tricks, survey results from the online art community.

I met Seth when he was in the Pacific Northwest last year and then again this year at his workshop. Seth is an amazing artist, with a contagious smile and a big heart, who inspires a wealth of creativity and community.

The Book
30 artists were given prompts to create two new art works.

"The face I show the world" is the prompt I chose for the Self-Portrait art work. For the second artwork, I chose the prompt, "irrational beliefs."  The excerpt page above shows my work in the lower left corner. It's about superstitions and I explain both pieces in more detail in the book.

In the past, I have created journal pages from prompts but never an art work. For me, a journal page is an intimate and experimental way to work out emotions and record what is going on in my life. The prompts give me a goal which I need; otherwise, I'd never complete a journal art page. On the other hand, when I am working on a painting or collage, I start out with a general idea. As that is not always where the art work will end up, I prefer not to be anchored by a theme or prompt.

In the end, starting from and sticking to a prompt was both enlightening and liberating. It forced me to explore my idea thoroughly before I started and to "check in" with myself and my notes throughout the creative process. Like my journal pages, the art works inspired experimentation and working beyond my comfort zones.

female figure wip
female figure, wip

I worked on two self-portrait versions for this project. Above is the one that I didn't submit for the book. It stayed unfinished and with almost a year gone by, I think I am ready to start working on it again.

Why did I not choose this one? I liked how the sumi ink worked for the upper body but not the lower portion. I liked the leaf prints and the hand-stamped circle prints, but these two elements weren't tied together. Everything seemed to work on its own but not together. So I stopped working on that one and started on the second version.

Finding Balance

finding balance by juana almaguer, detail
detail of finding balance

“Where there is ruin, there is hope for a treasure.”

The second version actually started out with a terrible mistake. I lost track of sizes and my sumi ink painting on rice paper was much larger than the paper support. As I layed down my rice paper onto the support, it was at that point that I realized the size difference. As I tried to remove the rice paper painting, predictably ... it tore in several places, beyond repair. I was frustrated but still filled with ideas, so I repositioned the pieces on the support. The painting now looked like a disjointed, contorted figure, but I was hopeful.

The collage-painting has several layers. Below the layers, is the sumi painting which is visible throughout the painting. For the final layer, I drew the female figure in charcoal. In the detail above, you can see the sumi ink painting below the charcoal line drawing of the hand. I chose this painting because I felt it communicated my meaning of the prompt clearly and all the elements worked individually and together.

Thank you Seth for this opportunity to be a part of your recent book, The Mixed-Media Artist!

For more information and inspiration, visit his blog: The Altered Page

Saturday, October 5, 2013

female figure, linocut, work in progress

female figure linocut wip
linocut, female figure, wip

I've completed three linocuts already: a male figure, a crow and a cat; but I haven't gotten around to printing any of them into a series yet. And yesterday, I started on another linocut. This one will probably be worked into a collage piece.
I think I need to just carve right now. It's mesmerizing and relaxing like drawing. Hmmm ... maybe not as relaxing as drawing as I have to be careful not to carve into my hand.

For this latest linocut, I reduced the line drawing of the female figure to fit onto my 4 x 6 linoleum block. After tracing it with charcoal, I placed it on the linoleum block, charcoal-side face down and traced it again with a harder pencil on the back-side. Once the charcoal transferred, I retraced the transferred drawing on the linoleum with a pen.

And now for some news! 

On October 13th I will be participating in 30 Artists, 30 days hosted by Seth Apter to celebrate the release of his latest book collaboration with 44 artists titled, The Mixed Media Artist. The "look inside" feature is available, and you may be able to get a glimpse of my contribution to this book.

I'll write more on October 13th about my participation, so be sure to come back then.
Also, he is giving away a free copy to some lucky bloggers. Visit his blog at the 30/30 link for details.

View more art inspiration at Sunday Sketches.

Saturday, September 28, 2013


transformation, september journal page
Transformation, journal page, september 2013

The days have gotten shorter and cooler and the rains keep all quiet until the winds kick up. Autumn is my favorite season and I am trying to get out during the drier days and go for a run in the woods. Beyond that I've been busy working on some new linocuts. I finished my crow linocut but have yet to make a series of prints and hope to get that series done this coming week.

In the meantime, I did a test print in my September journal page. A year in the life of a journal gave us the prompt: Emotions: What are you feeling, right now, at this moment in your life?

I started working on the journal page a couple of weeks ago. One afternoon I came across a youtube video by Hirokazu Kosaka, a Japanese Calligraphy artist, explaining the kanji that he first learned to paint and what they meant. The evolution of the kanji for flower really hit me that day, and I knew in that moment, I had found what I was trying to relate in my journal page.

The lower kanji consist of a human standing and a human lying down. One represents a living being while the other represents death. Above that is the one for grass. Altogether they form the kanji for flower. A flower blooms and dies. It's seeds are then fostered by the soil and next Spring, it will bloom again; and for this reason it symbolizies transformation. So that is where I am right now.

And now for some news! 

On October 13th I will be participating in 30 Artists, 30 days hosted by Seth Apter to celebrate the release of his latest book collaboration with 44 artists titled, The Mixed Media Artist. The "look inside" feature is available, and you may be able to get a glimpse of my contribution to this book.

I'll write more on October 13th about my participation, so be sure to come back then.

View more art inspiration at artsyville and Sunday Sketches.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

enso and the moment

enso II aug2013
Enso II, -Aug 2013, 9cm x 9cm

Last month I spent a couple of hours cleaning and rearranging my art room. I had everything in the middle of the room as I tried to fit each section into a new location of the room. In the end, everything was in the same place but just a few inches to the right. And those few inches made all the difference. Both my art tables, one for sitting and the other for standing, now have a good view out my windows that face the woods. Sometimes the simplest changes have the biggest effects.

enso I aug2013
Enso I, -Aug 2013, 9cm x 9cm

I seem to be working in spurts lately. Last couple of weeks I spent long hours working at my standing table on some new collage works and painting with sumi ink.

Sumi ink is unforgiving, so there are many failures that precede each successful painting. What keeps me going is knowing that I am further in my journey than before the failed attempt.
To live a creative life, we must lose our fear of being wrong.
Joseph Chilton Pearce

enso III aug2013
Enso III, -Aug 2013, 9cm x 9cm

I enjoy painting the Enso circles as they are simple yet difficult to do. Painting Enso for me means living in the moment, keeping my thoughts fluid and my movement free. It's letting go of the fear that this painting will not work out. It's letting go of expectations, both positive and negative. It's the breathing in and the breathing out.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

linocut, male figure, Dawn

linocut, dawn, in orange
Dawn in orange, linocut, male figure

Although, I enjoy the mornings, I usually create in the afternoons, so the mid-day is set aside for my art. During the last couple of weeks I've been working on linocuts and completed the first in my latest series titled, "Dawn". These will be done in several colors.

In the early 20th century, linocuts became popular among artists. Between 1938 and 1952, Matisse completed 70 linocuts.

I like this material for it's carving ease. If you set a warm iron for a few seconds to the linoleum, it will be easier to carve.

carved linoleum block
carved linoleum block for Dawn

I usually start out by tracing my drawing onto the linoleum using tracing paper. The image will print in the opposite position. So if my figure is facing left on the block, it will face right on the print. Also, what is carved out will be white on the paper, what is not carved out will pick up the color.

My mind doesn't operate that way which makes it a constant cerebral exercise. Sometimes I'll do test prints along the way but other times I'm too excited about chasing my imagination and skip the test printing.

In the coming weeks, I hope to complete another linocut for Dawn with the figure facing the opposite direction and in a different color.

The summer has been really great so far filled with bicycle day trips, evening hikes and weekend festivals. I hope you are having a lovely season wherever you are in the world.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

buried treasure and cats

prince enso kitty
prince, enso kitty III, giclee print

Above is my latest print in my enso cat series.

The original was done with orange and yellow acrylic paints for the background and conte crayon and pencil for the sleeping kitty.

As my apartment lease does not allow pets, I often volunteer at the local no-kill cat shelter. Prince, a grey tabby, always meets me at the door to welcome me.

Every year Seth Apter holds a blog hop called, Buried Treasure. The idea is to dig up a favorite post from long ago.  Below is a post from 2011.

Although, my Sputnik is no longer with me, I still remember the lessons she taught me. Siamese enso kitty, in the right bar, was inspired by her.

Buried Treasure

9 February 2011

I've been busy preparing for my exhibition which is just a few weeks away and just trying to keep up with life. In my fury of stress, I looked over at Sputnik, my siamese cat, and smiled as she delicately cleaned her front paws and cheeks. I was editing the above sketch in gimp and stopped to write these thoughts.

What I've learned from my Cat 

On rainy days, it's best to cuddle. And if you have someone to cuddle with, enjoy those moments.

Do what you love when you get the chance. You never know when the next time will come around.

Take that nap. You'll feel better.

Habits are good.

Have an escape plan. You just might need it.

On sunny days, take notice.

Have your place where you can leave your crap.  No one needs to see that.

Have fun. And remember being spontaneous and breaking habits is part of the fun.

Eat when you're hungry. Drink plenty of water.

Enjoy your bath time.

Have your safe place.

Sleep matters.

Hairballs are no fun. They are not worth keeping.

And, we truly do have 9 lives. Who you are today may not be who you are tomorrow.

memory mail art

memory mail art
handmade envelope (front), mail art, 3.7 x 8 inches

I am a firm believer in education, and there are many avenues to educating oneself. Just going to your local library or bookstore is a start to learning something new or expanding on something you already know.
Last year, I mentioned the greek classics class I was taking on cousera. This year they started offering art classes, and I joined their art and concepts course offered through Pennsylvania State University. Have you heard of

Cousera is "an education company that partners with the top universities and organizations in the world to offer courses online for anyone to take, for free." These university classes require tests, essays and assignments.

The Memory

My assignment this week is creating a mail art piece that stems from a memory.

mail art memory handmade envelope
handmade envelope, collage, line drawing and stamped bird

My earliest memory is not really something I remember exactly, but something that my Mom told me about. When I was around three years old, I disappeared. We lived out in the country and Mom looked everywhere for me, shouting out my name, but I was nowhere to be found. As she continued to look for me, she said I just showed up suddenly, looking like a ghost, covered in dust. That would not be the first time, I took off to explore. Looking back, I realize more fully my Mom's wisdom. She stayed patient and sound of mind through all my escapades, giving me just enough trust and freedom to explore. And I always knew that Mom would be there to welcome me back.

The Process

envelope pattern on 140# paper

Starting out with a store-bought envelope, then taking it apart, I fashioned a pattern cut down to the size that I wanted for my envelope, 9.5 cm x 20.5 cm. After tracing the envelope pattern onto 140# watercolor paper, I cut out the envelope and scored the paper at the points where the flaps would fold.

The background are washes of acrylic paints, collaged elements and images from my handmade stamps.
I haven't yet finished the insert letter, and I'm already excited about that as it will include a pop-up. This mail art will eventually be heading out to my last living Uncle.

What are you exploring lately?
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