Painting Flowers, Slowly

I’ve been busy, busy, busy, preparing for and teaching workshops plus going on several art related trips. Right now, I’m getting ready to lead a tour group to southern Utah with husband Jim (he’s the real leader) and 44 people plus bus driver. This is our 4th year of planning and leading trips as a fundraiser for a local group. This 8-day trip should be a wonderful experience for the group. Keep fingers crossed for us that it doesn’t rain. We leave tomorrow, so I’ve been madly doing laundry, watering plants and cleaning the house. Am taking a few minutes to update my sorely neglected blog.

I’ve been working on these two flower paintings but progress has been slow due to interruptions (see above). Plus I’ve only created 3 or 4 flower paintings in the past, so it’s a learning curve. Which makes it fun and sometimes frustrating too.

2 up, 2nd set photos

The snapshot (above) was taken several weeks ago.

Here are photos of the individual paintings. The one directly below is 36″ x 36″. I’m guessing it’s maybe half way done or less at this point.

Flowers in progress, recent

The one below has gotten more of my attention, but is still far from close to being done. It looks tiny in this photo but is actually 30″ x 60. I made a stencil of some leafy, flower petal type shapes as an experiment and have used it to add texture. If you look closely, you might be able to see it, mostly around the edges of each painting.

Most recent, long

Okay, I just looked and I’m going to break down and take 2 new snapshots because in looking at these on the easel I’ve  made more progress recently than I thought.

In order to try to make some sense of the chaos of multiple leaves and flowers, I took my trusty Fine Line marker and High Flow Titanium White acrylic to outline some of the shapes. And guess what—I like the effect of the white lines. See below:

10-4, square, 480


10-4, 480 long

What do you think?

Old Friends at the Southwestern Invitational Opening at Prescott College at Sam Hill Warehouse Gallery

The Southwestern Invitational is an exhibition in which I’m one of the artists. It’s a traveling exhibit, starting in Yuma last Spring & ending at the Sky Harbor International Art Museum in 2016. Last weekend was an opening at Prescott College at Sam Hill Warehouse Gallery, the third stop for this traveling show.

I knew that Bruce Horn, printmaking instructor from my art student days at Northern Arizona University, was one of the artists included in the show. I wasn’t able to make it to the first opening of the exhibit in Yuma at the Yuma Fine Art Center. Bruce was there. Jim & I attended the opening at the second gallery, the West Valley HQ Gallery in Surprise. Bruce didn’t go to that one. The third opening was the charm. We were both at the opening at the Prescott College at Sam Hill Warehouse Gallery. Neither of us could remember when we’d last seen each other in person, although we’ve been in touch via email. Maybe 30 years?

At any rate, it was fantastic to spend some time with Bruce & his wife Pat. And nice for Jim to finally meet the fabled Bruce Horn. It amazes me how crystal clear my memories are of the years of being in the printmaking studio at Northern Arizona University, Bruce’s lectures & demonstrations, and my hard work toward accomplishing his demanding assignments. Although I don’t do much printmaking these days, the discipline required and his great teaching and love of art continue to benefit me.

Bruce has also turned into a painter although he works in oils as opposed to my work in acrylic paint. In kind of an amazing coincidence, his painting & my painting were shown adjacent to each other in this beautiful, large gallery space. So Jim took the opportunity to photograph us catching up on old times.

Bruce’s painting is on the left, mine on the right.

Prescott Opening-1


Prescott Opening-2

And not to overdo it, here’s a third photo:

Prescott Opening-3

Photographs courtesy James Cowlin.

Four New Water Paintings, Officially Photographed and Ready to Go

Four new paintings, hot off the easel, were photographed by Jim and are ready to show the world (or those of you in the world who look at my blog posts & facebook pages). Here they are:

Acrylic painting on panel 36x48

Lake-Boat-Wake     Acrylic painting on panel      36×48     $3800


Acrylic painting on panel 12x12

Dock Mirage      Acrylic painting on panel      12×12     $360


Acrylic painting on panel 12x12

Summertime Dock     Acrylic painting on panel      12×12     $360


Acrylic painting on panel 16x16

‘Round the Bend     Acrylic painting on panel      16×16        $560


I have several water paintings I’m working on and am also having fun playing with painting flowers. Here are the paintings in progress:

Water in prog 8:15, 1

Future water painting, so far acrylic washes & a bit of texture added.


Water in prog 8:15, 2

Same thing with this one. Both are 12″ x 12″.


Flower ptgs in progress 8:15

I’m having fun with these future flower paintings. We’ll see what happens…

Now it’s time to get back to working on these paintings in progress.

Magic in Los Angeles—Art, Art & More Art

Jim treated me to a trip to Los Angeles for my birthday. Going to LA and dedicating the trip to looking at art is something I’ve wanted to do for a long time. We made the all-day drive and arrived at our temporary home (courtesy of Airbnb) in Culver City in the late afternoon.

LA-6Photo: James Cowlin

We stayed in a 1960’s vintage trailer. It was great. Close to everything we wanted to explore, walking distance to good restaurants (ask me about the Hawaiian breakfast!), and mostly non-freeway driving to museums and galleries. Jim did all the driving in LA, thankfully, as I am phobic about driving in the best of circumstances. We also had trusty Mildred, a brand new GPS that did a stellar job of helping the driver get us from one place to the next with minimal backtracking.

My favorite meal (besides the Hawaiian breakfast) was my birthday dinner at the Blue Plate Oysterette in Santa Monica. We also had a nice dinner with our nephew, David Don, who managed to get away from his grueling job for a few hours for a visit.

Highlights of our three days of visiting museums and galleries were the LA Louvre, the Hammer, LACMA and the galleries in Culver City. The 3-days of non-stop looking were both heavenly and overwhelming. We barely touched the surface of what’s in LA art-wise, but it was enough for this time. I don’t think I could have taken in more or my brain and eyes would have gone into total overload.

Below are a few more of Jim’s photos.

LA-1Looking at Mark Bradford: Scorched Earth, gorgeous paintings at the Hammer Museum.

LA-3If I could climb inside this painting to figure out how Mark Bradford added and carved out the layers of paint and other media, I would have!

We almost didn’t visit the Hammer, but ended up there first (long story) and saw three incredible art exhibits. Turns out that it’s my favorite LA museum so far. And it’s free. We came back to the Hammer on Thursday evening for a jazz concert (also free). It was truly an amazing experience to be at the performance of Kyle Buckmann’s Wrack…Awaits Silent Tristero’s Empire. I don’t pretend to know anything about jazz, but was enthralled by this performance by a group of musicians from around the country. It was a privilege to hear them perform in the beautiful courtyard space in the museum.

LA-4Paintings and photographs by David Hockney at the LA Louvre. I could have spent the entire 3 days looking at these.

LA-5At LACMA, looking at work by Noah Purifoy

I was set to skip LACMA, having been there on many previous visits to LA. There wasn’t anything showing there that jumped out at me as a must-see for this visit. But a nice gallery director in Culver City recommended Noah Purifoy’s Junk Dada exhibit at LACMA. Sounded interesting so off we went. It was amazing work, assembled from debris. After living and working in LA for much of his life, he moved to Joshua Tree, in the Mohave desert, where he lived for the last fifteen years of his life and created a 10-acre park filled with his sculpture. I’ve see plenty of assemblages of random junk in my time, but never anything like this. How he took all this stuff and put it together to make cohesive & beautiful art is way beyond me.

Jim taking a break LAACMAAnd here’s my snapshot of Jim, taking a much deserved break at LACMA.

We made the drive home last Saturday, leaving hectic LA and arriving back in quiet and lovely Oracle. I couldn’t wait to get back to work in my studio.

I can’t imagine a better birthday gift. Thank you Jim, it was a magical time.

Southwestern Invitational Traveling Exhibition Moves Along and I Make a Few New Friends

I am honored to be a part of the 2015 Southwestern Invitational and happy to have my painting chosen as a part of the traveling exhibit. The show will be on the road until August 2016, with 2 month or longer stays at each of six gallery/art center venues, starting at the Yuma Art Center and ending at the Phoenix Airport Museum.

The Southwestern Invitational has a long history in Arizona, starting in Yuma in 1966. At that time, Yuma Art Center was housed in the old Yuma Train Depot, a beautiful and historic place to show art. Eventually the annual Invitational was included in the Arizona Commission on the Arts traveling program and toured the state each year after the initial show in Yuma. Until 1993.

Jim & I had a connection with this show back in the day. His work was included in several of the Invitational exhibits. As a result of trips to see the Invitational in the mid-80’s we got to know the then-director of the Art Center, James Nelson. Jim and I ended up photographing and designing a number of posters & invitations for various shows and other events at the Yuma Art Center. We became friends with James & had many delightful trips to Yuma to work, play & stay with him. Our son Jeremiah loved to visit James and his huge collection of Smurfs and other quirky kids toys. And I’ll never forget one of the breakfasts James served—huge pieces of Devil’s Food cake left over from an opening the previous night. Strictly against the Cowlin appropriate for breakfast rules. Jeremiah was in hog heaven. As were we all.

James put his heart into the Yuma Art Center and built a wonderful program of art exhibitions. Sadly, in 1993 a fire destroyed the Art Center along with the large collection of art by Arizona artists purchased by the Center over the years.

And James moved to LA. For a few years he’d stay with us in Phoenix when he came back to visit favorite friends and places in Arizona. Then he moved to Portland. We gradually lost touch with him. James, where are you now?

A number of years later funding was acquired and a beautiful new 6,700 square foot Art Center was built. It is located in historic downtown Yuma and is one of the premier art gallery spaces in Arizona.

David Woodward, Executive Director of the Art Center, decided it was high time to bring back the Southwestern Invitational and the current show is the result of his herculean efforts. He hopes the Invitational will once again become an annual event. So do I!

It opened at the Yuma Art Center where it was on display in April & May. From there it traveled to the West Valley Arts HQ Gallery in Surprise, northwest of Phoenix.

Last Friday we went to see the show on the last day before it moves to Prescott. It was nice that the West Valley Arts HQ had a closing (like an opening but at the end of the show instead of at the beginning). As you’ll see below, it’s a beautiful gallery & there was a nice crowd for the closing.

Big overview 480Overview of the gallery

With sculpturesLooking the other direction

Bonny's ptg from sideVisitors viewing my painting. To the left is a mixed media painting by Prescott artist, Bonnie Stauffer.

Me looking at Bonny's workTrying to figure out how Bonnie creates these 3-dimensional paintings.

Bonnie and I had never met before, but she contacted me before this event and we’d exchanged some emails. I was delighted to meet her in person. And fascinated to see her work in person, too. It’s amazing. You can see more about her on her website.

SWI—Sarah KriehnDeep in discussion with Phoenix artist Sarah Kriehn.

It turns out that Sarah and I have quite a few mutual friends. She is a printmaker from Phoenix & has a beautiful original monoprint in the show. I checked out her website and it’s impressive.

Portrait of meIn front of my painting Light Dance  

All photographs courtesy James Cowlin

Next the show travels to Prescott College Art Gallery at Sam Hill Warehouse where it’ll be up in September & October. Then on to the Tubac Center of the Arts, south of Tucson in November & December. In 2016 the Invitational will spend January & February at the Coconino Center for the Arts in Flagstaff, finally landing at the Phoenix Airport Museum from March through August.

Brand New Paintings, Officially Photographed

My in-house photographer (wonderful husband & photographer James Cowlin) photographed three just-finished paintings over the weekend. If you’re curious to get a feel for how I got from point A to point Z, you can see some of the process on previous blog posts.

Here goes:

Acrylic Painting on Panel, 36x48

Rock-Water-Wood     Acrylic Painting on Panel     36″x 48″     $3800


acrylic Painting on Panel, 20x20

Cross-current     Acrylic Painting on Panel     20″ x 20″     $880


acrylic Painting on Panel, 16x16

Waterway Sunset       Acrylic Painting on Panel   16″ x 16″       $560

Where Oh Where Did the Driftwood Go? Paintings in Progress…

People tell me they like to see photos of paintings in progress. Showing my laborious & often dubious process can be kind of, well, embarrassing. Getting from point A (the start) to point Z (the finish) isn’t a straight line, as you’ll see below. If you’re curious you can dial back to the last blog post to see a few of these paintings shown at the very beginning.

Reeds 1

Reeds 2Progress? They look almost identical, but I have done some work on this painting. (Size 16″ x 16″)


dock yellow 1

Dock yellow 2Often they get worse before they get better…   (Size 12″ x 12″)


Dock blue 1

Dock blue 2You get a prize if you can see what I’ve accomplished in this one. It’s there, honest.  (Size 12″ x 12″)


Reflection horiz groovesI forgot to take an earlier photo in progress, except for the one you can see if you go to the previous blog post. (Size 16″ x 16″)


Driftwood 1Here’s the real drama. This driftwood has gotten smaller, larger, rougher smoother. Previous blog post shows some of the struggle.

Driftwood 2Got mad and sanded the driftwood down.

Driftwood 3When in doubt sand it out. Driftwood is gone, gone, gone. Please don’t tell me you liked it better with the driftwood! (Size 20″ x 20″)


OakI think I’m getting close to finishing this one. Unless I have some bright idea to get into sanding mode and remove an oak root or something…  (Size 36″ x 48″)

Summertime, Apricots, and Painting Up a Storm

It’s finally beginning to feel like summer in Oracle. So far there have only been a few days when I felt it was warm enough to switch to shorts. I’m waiting for a stretch of hot days and then I’ll declare my own official Start of Summertime. I’m not teaching any classes this summer & am devoting my time to painting, preparing for a show at the Blue Dome Gallery in Silver City, opening in September.

Meanwhile, I also have apricots on the brain. Apparently our tree thinks it’s summer. The fruit ripened all at one time. I’ve been baking (apricot kuchen, apricot muffins, apricot upside down cake, etc.) & giving away apricots to friends.

Apricots always remind me of my childhood in California. My family lived in a new subdivision that had been an “Italian plum” orchard. That’s a fancy name for the plums from which prunes are made. They weren’t great to eat, kind of mealy and tasteless. We had 13 Italian plum trees in our yard which translated to what seemed to me to be millions of little plums. This was not lucky for me, as picking up the fallen fruits was one of my chores. If not done in a timely manner they got squishy & full of slugs. Ugh. Across the street and beyond was a former apricot orchard. Lucky them. Lucky me, too. I could go up and down that side of the street and eat apricots until they were coming out of my ears. Warm from the sun and as sweet as anything.

One of my early art-making memories was badgering my mother into driving to an apricot orchard I had seen so that I could create a oil pastel drawing of the trees in bloom. I insisted that we park at the top of a hill looking down onto the orchard. Way too ambitious for a 10 year old and I still remember the struggle to capture what I saw. My Mom sat patiently in the car while I made this attempt. I’m guessing I got pretty cranky trying to figure out how to make the orchard look the way I saw it.

This post is really about a bunch of paintings, three of which I started yesterday, one a few days before, two have been in progress for weeks and finally the last one which may or may not be finished. This makes a total of 6 or possibly 7 paintings in the works. By the way, it’s still a struggle to reach my vision. But I love the challenge.


Ptg 1 480One day old, 16″ x 16″.


Ptg 2 480Another newborn #2, 12″ x 12″.


Ptg 3 480New start #3, 12″ x 12″


Ptg 4 480I’ve been working on this one, #4, for a few days. It’s 16″ x 16″.


Ptg 5 480#5, in progress for weeks. Note the white blob on the piece of driftwood in the forefront. I got mad at what was happening and slathered the problem area with Golden Crackle Paste yesterday. Today I need to paint it and make it blend in with the rest (hopefully). 20″ x 20″


Ptg 6 480This is a big fellow, #6, 36″ x 44″. Been working on it for many weeks (possibly months, I’ve lost track).


Ptg 7 480Technically this one, #7 is done. I’ve signed it, which is usually a sign that a painting has been completed. But I keep fooling around with it. Maybe now I’ve got it. Just not sure…

Where Oh Where Has Barbara Been?

It’s finally summer and I’m looking forward to a nice long stretch of time to focus on my artwork.

May was a busy month what with teaching various painting workshops and preparing for a show.

I was also traveling for 2 weeks. Here’s why—Jim has developed a new side-business over the last few years and naturally, I’m involved. We lead tours around the Southwest. These bus tours range from 4 to 9 days, with 45-50 people and no, we don’t do the driving! Two weeks in May were devoted planning for upcoming tours this October & in April 2016. We were in Northern Arizona, Utah & New Mexico checking out hotels, restaurants & interesting things to do with a bus-load of people.

Oh, by the way, I was also painting off and on in May. Below are 3 paintings-in-progress.

Lg water with treeThis one is pretty large—36″ x 48″. Got a long way to go on it.


16x16 dead tree branch16″x16″, in about the same stage of completion—far from finished.


12 x 1212″ x 12″, driving me crazy.

Sometimes small paintings take as long to complete as larger paintings. This one has been quite a struggle. I got mad a couple of days ago and attacked it with my electric sander hoping something promising was lurking beneath a few layers of paint. This is what’s left. Not sure where to go from here…


Results Are In: Oracle Artist Studio Tour a Success

Somehow everything got done. The clutter of my studio was moved into (and filled up) the adjacent garage. Please check out the previous blog post if you’d like see what I was contending with. Once the studio was cleared out, Jim went out & bought me a first class mop complete with a scrub brush. I attacked the dirty floor until it was clean(ish).

Then came the decisions about what to put where. You’d think this would be easier each year, but it isn’t. This time we decided to hang some of our work mixed together on the large wall. Then tables were dragged around and set in a variety of configurations until it looked like everything had a place and the flow in the space was good.

Finally the puzzle pieces came together just in the nick of time. That left me with the baking and guacamole making. I baked  batches of cookies and brownies on Friday night and then got up early on Saturday to make guacamole and more cookies before the tour started at 10 am.

Our first visitors arrived at 9:30 am, 1/2 hour early. It’s lucky that we were ready because there was a steady stream of visitors all day. Sunday was just as busy. The weather was perfect and our guests were delightful.

Here are a few photos of the studio before the tour started:

view 1


view 2


view 3

And the visitors arrived:

view 6

Note my handsome husband, Jim, in blue jean & checked shirt, below.

view 5

And if you’re wondering about the purple duct tape on the floor? No it isn’t a design statement. It’s my attempt to cover the cracks in the concrete and maybe a secret hope that the duct tape will keep the cracks from getting any worse…