I started my Fund For Teachers fellowship experience by crying in public, and I don’t care who knows it. It’s been a long time since a painting made me cry like that. Tear up maybe, choke up, sure, wet-face can’t speak crying? Not since the early 80’s, at Philbrook, at an exhibit from the Museum of fine Arts, Boston. After a couple galleries of big dark French academy works, so studied and posed and serious, I came upon a small Degas Racehorses at Longchamp and the thought of this guy at the races taking a little panel from his coat pocket and painting such a perfectly alive, luminous, fluid, beautiful thing just killed me. So I was sniffling and wiping my eyes when I came upon a fellow weeper, a guy with long black hair & big glasses & he was sobbing in front of Van Gogh’s Houses in Auvers. So, like the row of four babies we were seated among on the flight over a couple of days ago, I started crying too! 

Yesterday’s public sobbing was at the Munch Museum’s brilliant exhibit examining the remarkable parallels between the lives and art of local hero Edvard Munch and Vincent Van Gogh. The exhibit included great examples of their predecessors and influences as well. But the very first room had without warning, The Potato Eaters, and equally without warning I couldn’t stop myself from starting to cry.  I would have never expected that but there you have it. His first masterpiece, as a nobody, already painting in a way nobody ever had, with a sensitivity for the poor never before seen in art in the same way. And now I will never see that painting in the same way either. 

We leave this morning on a great adventure! This coming school year we are moving into a beautiful new Middle School where I will have a kiln for the first time. Thanks to Fund for Teachers I will be learning about ceramics history and about how to start kids off to a good start in clay, and to help me be a better teacher. 

We are going to Oslo, Denmark, Sweden and Berlin. 

As art supplies go, I kept it down to the bare minimum. A clipboard, my portable watercolor box, a few scraps of paper (scraps, literally), miniature craft decorating brushes, and my trusty zip-top bag of drawing tools. I added a few tubes of gouache, and learning from my Yellowstone painting experience I brought the best tube of white instead of the smaller & lighter tube of “just ok” white. 

So follow along! I will be posting when I have wifi, so probably not every day. 


About this time last year, a couple of my students brought me a good-sized chunk of mistletoe. They had climbed up a tree to gather it for me, and tied it up in a red plastic ribbon from a trash bag. They knew I wanted to paint some. I did, it was fun, and I decided by the next Christmas season I would be showing some seasonal-themed paintings-somewhere.

I have quite a list of “by this time next year” goals, and like (I suspect) most people very few of them are ever realized. However, after today I will have twenty-four seasonal-theme paintings on display in three venues.

How did I manage to meet this (small) goal?

1. I committed to a medium I tend to fragment my creative energies in lots of different directions. For this I decided I would work in oil on panel.

2. I decided to go small Painting small allowed me to accomplish something with a shorter commitment. For me, a middle school teacher, that means my wiped-out attention span post-4:00 pm.

3. I prepared like an assembly line I found a batch of trading-card size archival panels, and prepared them all at once, so when I wanted to paint I didn’t have to do any prep. It was all ready to go.

4. I made a list of ideas I marked out the obviously dumb ones. Some other dumb ones got scraped off the panels later. Editing is so important, the sooner the better.

5. I kept my subjects close by I gathered the objects I wanted to paint and kept them out in the open. I gathered a little pile of ribbons, ornaments, C9 lights, anything that might work, so when I wanted to paint I had several things to choose from right there and ready. I also turned my easel so I could see outside.

Next week I will write about finding places to show seasonal art.

Also, I ordered these small, thick unfinished frames from an Etsy shop called niceframes. I have ordered from then a few times now and have been happy with each order.


It may seem like a small thing to the outside observer, the final sorting of art, arranged and rearranged, stacked and unstacked. Counted. Counted over and over. Occasionally one painting will be laid aside. Occasionally it will be put back in. For me this can go on in fits and spurts for days. Then the time comes to put things in frames, and type up an inventory. Even then, something might be in a frame one minute and out later, until the list is typed. Once the list is typed it might as well be carved in stone.

The older I get the more ruthlessly I cull. I would rather have two or three fewer paintings to sell than one that drags the whole group down, one that shows my indecision, waffling, anything fussy or overworked, or just dumb.

What happens to these paintings? They are set aside for awhile, and when I look again I’ll either decide to give them another chance or I’ll sand them down and re-use the panel. No regrets.



I love portraits, looking at portraits, reading about portrait painters. However, if you take a look at this blog, my available paintings or Pinterest page, you won’t see many paintings including people, faces, or figures. That is about to change. No, I’m not suddenly changing direction, I’m just giving myself permission to swim where I have only waded.

This is a little sketch I did this week, just for fun. We have been drawing faces in my 7-8th grade classes, so I tried out all my do’ s and don’ts one evening to see if I was missing any important points. Not sure why I started in purple. After doing a few in colored pencil I will move to gouache, then oil. I will post process pictures on Instagram.


A friendly reminder I heard one evening…I’ve been using ACEO size panels to keep myself painting now that school has started. Sometimes all I can get done is to gesso panels, or clean and condition brushes, or set something up to paint. Or nothing. That poor onion, though, sat on a silk scarf -one of my silk marbling rejects- on a makeshift pedestal for a couple of weeks. And the cabbage I’d said I was going to cook for supper, that had to wait a few days too before it became slaw. I want to paint an avocado, to play with the concave/convex qualities, but I have given up and eaten three in a row. Now there is a zinnia and a pomegranate waiting for me to get back to work.

I did, however, paint at school. We have been working in watercolor for the past week so I have been painting five or six watercolor demos a day. A couple of girls in my art II class want to make micro-macrame, kind of grown up friendship bracelets, so I learned how to do that at home one evening (I missed the friendship bracelet era). Then, thanks to You Tube we learned together how to read a micro-macrame pattern. Very interesting! One of the best parts of my job is that I’m always learning new things. At the same time I’m glad I am at least making a little time for my own art fairly regularly…”sorta-kinda”, as the kids say.





How do you sign your art? Twice in the past few weeks I have had conversations with friends about a work of art they own or saw elsewhere. In both instances they were interested in seeing more of the artist’s work with an eye to a possible purchase. There was only one problem- the artiss’ signatures were completely illegible.

I had terrible handwriting in elementary school and erased holes through my papers. My parents and I spent many hours at the kitchen table practicing with adaptive grips they seemed to collect at teachers’ meetings. What finally did the trick was a calligraphy workbook I traced & copied every night for a good part of seventh grade. So my signature and handwriting are readable now, if not as beautiful as my mother’s.

My mother was a stickler for good penmanship. There was not a superfluous flowery gesture to be found, but it was graceful and textbook perfect. She was a third grade teacher and did not hesitate to discuss my college president’s silly row of loops with him, or our state representative’s scribble. She told him “I know I taught you better than that!” .

I understand why people take signature shortcuts if they are signing autographs frequently, or signing books on a book tour. I admit to rolling my eyes at artists who make their signature line particularly angst-ridden- smeared, erased, re-drawn, in some dramatic fashion. I don’t care for giant names in contrasting color that draw attention away from the work. But neither do I want to search for it. When I find it, I want to be able to read it. Most of us are not going to ever be so well known that a few coded marks are instantly recognizable (and easily forged).

For my art, I want my name to be discreet but legible. I want my viewer to know my name so they can find me again. How do you sign your art?

Here is one of the illegible signatures in question-


School is about to start. My supplies have arrived and I have been in my classroom unpacking, wondering why I got four bottles of spray canvas tightener- or rather-what very important thing did I think I was ordering instead! Oh no!

I can hear the squealing tires of my creativity and energy being suddenly re-directed. I don’t want to fall out of the slowly improving art making discipline I worked on all summer. Later in the school year when things are humming along it isn’t that hard to come home and paint, but the first few weeks? Good luck with that. I know I have to maintain my own painting these first few weeks in order to set a pattern for the year. So what to do? My plan is to go small. I have a batch of ACEO-sized ampersand panels, and some even smaller squares. I tried painting on one last night and found the pre-gessoed surface unpleasant, an unworkable combination of sticky and slippery, so added my own layer of Utrecht gesso. Adding a process step really wasn’t part of my plan and I want to be wary of potential procrastination-inducing hurdles, however small. So I gessoed 20. That should keep me going. I’m thinking working so small will be enjoyable and not overly time-consuming, but still reward me with finished works.

I’m also doing this because I want to paint a little more thickly. I like my paintings where I see the brush strokes, as in this one of the water lilies I was surprised to find in Yellowstone, br />

and this one of poppies in Giverny. I want this looseness to come more naturally, and I am hoping these little paintings will help because I really can’t get too fussy at that size. Or maybe I can, we’ll see.<


In any case, here is my first tiny oil painting from today-


I generally make art three ways:

1. On my own, either out in the field or alone in my studio. I mostly paint in gouache or oil, work on my large ongoing mosaic project, or perhaps carve a woodblock for printing.

2. As a teaching artist. Over the course of a year my students range from Kindergarten to 12 grade. Scatter in a few adults and that is my year. The processes and media range from drawing to clay animation to silk marbling to stone carving- always changing and always a new challenge. Seeing former students teaching younger ones is very gratifying.

3. The third category is making art in community, like yesterday.

Sunday, 9-5 was my time slot for the 2014 Monothon at Artspace at Untitled in Oklahoma City. Every year the experience is different – we are either upstairs in the most beautiful and inspiring workshop space I have ever seen, or downstairs in the less beautiful but still well fitted (and cooler) shop. Yesterday we were six artists working downstairs. The goal is for each artist to create two to four monoprints, and the studio chooses one to sell at their fundraiser later in the year. Long periods of silence are interspersed with conversation and commiserating. We usually end up helping each other work out technical issues with the inks and press throughout the day. We used Akua soy-based inks and Revere paper. I like Akua, although their ever-changing formula keeps mastery at bay. My only complaint is their colors are a little muted, especially the warms and whites. For school I prefer Akua for an entirely different reason–it only dries on paper.

I attempted one monoprint based on a rainy street at night I saw in New Orleans a few weeks ago, and one of the huge clouds I saw looking towards Santa Fe from Taos earlier in the summer. My cousin Brian Landreth was also working and added some finishing touches to that one.

Group studio experiences like this are an important and often overlooked part of building community among artists, especially in places like Oklahoma where we are far-flung. It is so good and nourishing to have a few hours to meet, re-connect, and work, and it us a great way for young artists or people new to the area to get acquainted. I find it much more satisfying than standing around making brief small talk at openings, and I never fail to learn something.

What other ways have you experienced this kind of artist community-building?

Ariana Foote and my first plate


Brian and one of his white dogs. The white dog is a Chickasaw protector spirit and a repeating motif in his work


Adrienne Day



Martin Hallren (l), Gilliam Kemper (r)


So far this summer I have visited and sketched or painted in some very distinctive places. The first was Taos New Mexico. Taos has long been a destination for artists and all lovers of beauty. I was happy to find that popularity hadn’t turned it into a theme-park version of itself. It seems like a town with a real sense of community, and good people who work very hard to make it a pleasant place to live for all levels of the society there. Unlike some other cities with lots of art, galleries in Taos are friendly and welcoming. Often one of the first things I was told as I stepped through the door was “these are local artists”, or New Mexico, or the region. It was great to be in a place where local art is so strongly presented and supported. Almost every gallery promptly recommended at least one other gallery as well. Kent and I make a point of greeting shopkeepers as soon as we enter their space, and in Taos that led to some very entertaining conversations!

I painted one morning at the Rio Grande gorge until sunburn made me stop. I was distracted by watching beautiful tiny tiny birds on the rocks. They were so tiny! Although the chain link fence was ugly, I have long-ago memories of a gust of wind blowing a watercolor down into a gorge in Colorado, so I appreciated its function if not its form.

The skies in New Mexico are beautiful, and the clouds move quickly. It was a good idea to start with a value study because the light changed dramatically in no time at all.

Plein air, pochade
First time with new pochade box.
Canyon, Betty C Bowen, Rio Grande Plein Air, Taos
My canyon results, will finish in the studio

That same afternoon I painted a watercolor of the mountains from the much more comfortable vantage point of the Taos Mesa Brewing Co.. No great final result to show but it was fun. I am very aware that working plein air makes me slow down and observe in ways I simply don’t seem to do without colors to mix. Inside the Brewery was a poetry workshop, and outdoors we enjoyed watching a crew build a large new performance stage area. If we lived in the area I’m pretty sure this would be a regular stop. It has an air of continual creativity I find very attractive.

Plein air, Taos Mesa
The view from our table at Taos Mesa Brewing.

Our visit coincided with the annual re-mudding of the San Francisco de Asis Mission Church in Ranchos de Taos. It was very interesting to watch the all-volunteer crew at work maintaining this treasure. The church was begun as early as 1722, and besides continuing to be an active congregation in the Taos community, the building has been a popular subject for painters and photographers. Most people think of Georgia O’Keefe’s paintings, but Ansel Adams’s photographs of the same general time period are also very influential. I must confess my embarrassment at realizing I had driven right past it years ago- it is definitely not where I thought it was!

Ranchos de Taos, re-mudding
Volunteers re-mudding the Ranchos de Taos church
Adobe, Taos
Screening the adobe materials

The reason for my visit was to attend the opening of “After Dark III“, a national juried show held at Greg Moon Art. This show focused on a wide interpretation of the theme, and I am proud to have had two paintings included in such a strong and varied show in such a beautiful place. I appreciate the opportunity and the good excuse to take a road trip to New Mexico. I hope we will be out there again soon.

Taos, Betty a Busby, Greg Moon, Betty C Bowen
My two small paintings with a gorgeous textle piece “Willow Revisited” by Betty Busby