The Color Blue

May 28, 2018

Matisse/Diebenkorn at SFMoMA


The image nearby shows two paintings. The one on the left is by Henri Matisse (French 1869-1954), titled The Blue Window, 1913, oil on canvas, 51×35 inches (MoMA). The one on the right is by Richard Diebenkorn (American 1922-1993), titled Woman on a Porch, 1958, oil on canvas, 72×72 inches New Orleans Museum of Art.

These two paintings were part of the exhibition Matisse/Diebenkorn that opened at the Baltimore Museum of Art (10/23/16 – 01/29/17) and travelled to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (3/11/17 – 05/29/17).

I recommend you visit the Baltimore Museum online for images and information, including a link to a video “Richard Diebenkorn on Beginning a Painting” and additional links to exhibition reviews on TV and other media. Here are five (5) things to know about Diebenkorn that are part of the online exhibition site: (1) His work is in almost every major US museum collection (2) Diebenkorn moved between abstraction and figuration (3) He lived and worked in California – and the light and space of the West Coast infuses his paintings (4) He was influenced by several Modern European and American artists, including Henri Matisse, his greatest influence, but also Pierre Bonnard, Paul Cezanne, Edward Hopper, Willem de Kooning and Piet Mondrian, and (5) He is best know for his Ocean Park series, named for the Santa Monica neighborhood where he lived from 1966-1988.


The Baltimore Museum of Art was the only East Coast site for this exhibition.

I recommend the exhibition catalog, also titled Matisse/Diebenkorn, published by The Baltimore Museum of Art and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMoCA) in association with DelMonido Books, Prestel. The catalog shows works by both artists on facing pages and includes essays that give a lot of information about the affinities and connections between the artists.



Blue is the most popular color in art, favored by artists and preferred by men and women alike. Diebenkorn used the same blue colors in his paintings as Matisse. If you check out images of blue paintings by Diebenkorn, you’ll see most of his paintings are blue, and the blues vary in hue and color from warm to cool, and pale to deep tones. His oil paints had to include Ultramarine, Cerulean, Cobalt and Prussian blues.


The color blue represents both the sky and the sea, and is associated with open spaces, freedom, intuition, imagination, expansiveness, inspiration, and sensitivity. Blue also represents meanings of depth, trust, loyalty, sincerity, wisdom, confidence, stability, faith, heaven, and intelligence.

Blue can be strong and steadfast or light and friendly. Read more about the meaning of the color blue here.




My recent abstract geometric paintings have a focus on blue. Like Diebenkorn’s abstractions, some of my paintings include other colors like grey, green, orange, black and white.


Nikkal, Jacob’s Ladder 1, acrylic on canvas


The image nearby is my painting titled Jacob’s Ladder 1. It’s acrylic on canvas, 52×40 inches and includes triangles in a gridded space. A friend suggested the title. She said the painting reminded her of an old child’s game constructed with thread and wood blocks where the blocks change their location and shape when you juggled the threads.


I was playing with shapes and colors in this painting. I used Ultramarine blue as a primary color, but also used Cobalt and Manganese blue. I created blue greens when I added different yellows into the blues. My colors are layered and show blues are under or on top of other colors. Up close you can notice blue under white, blue under deep red orange, blue under gold and salmon pink, blue under grey and green.


Nikkal, Blue and White Triangles, acrylic and paper collage

I wanted to create a painting that showed blue with white variations. The image nearby is Blue and White Triangles, a diptych, 24×32 inches on two panels I created with paper collage painted with acrylic in Ultramarine, Cobalt, Cerulean Blue and Whites. I mixed the paints to create lighter and deeper blues. The colors are layered with blues over whites. You can also see I used greens under colors and added oranges. This work is about color relationships expressed with painted cut triangle papers.


Nikkal, Blue Triangles on Black, 12×12 inches, acrylic and paper collage


The image nearby is a small 12×12 inch collage on panel with blue and black painted papers. The blue triangles are cut papers painted with Cobalt Blue acrylic. The black papers are painted with a mixture of Ultramarine Blue and Burnt Umber acrylic to create a dark tone that looks like black.


Blue is the New Orange


Vincent Van Gogh, Starry Night, 1889, oil on canvas


Andy Warhol, Flowers, 1964


The two images above are the painting Starry Night by Vincent Van Gogh (oil on canvas, 1889) and Flowers, an acrylic and silkscreen print with pencil on linen by Andy Warhol. See these images and others in a fun read in the Huffington Post titled Blue is the New Orange – about the color blue, written by Katherine Brooks (12/6/16).


The author writes blue is now the most popular color in art. See 28 gorgeous examples, with art by Degas, Warhol, Picasso, Yves Klein, Monet, Renoir, van Gogh, Matisse. Rothko, and more.


Yves Klein IKB 241

The image above is an untitled Blue Monochrome by the artist Yves Klein (French, 1928-1962). Photo credit: Levy Gorvy at Klein created a color field painting in a blue so rich that you have to see it in person because the blue is so intense and spectacular. In an article titled Yves Klein’s Legacy is about Much More Than Blue (Jan 9, 2017), Tess Thackara wrote Klein was seduced by the deep cerulean blue of the French Mediterranean Sea and obsessed by the brilliant blue skies in Nice. Yves Klein worked with a paint dealer and created International Klein Blue (IKB), a matte version of French Ultramarine blue paint. The color is gorgeous.



Some blues cannot be mixed. You have to buy the paint in tubes or jars to get the exact color. I work with acrylic. Visit Dick Blick online and see a color chart that shows all Golden heavy body acrylic colors sold in a paint tube or jar. You can see every color imaginable. Choices for Blue colors include: Cerulean Blue, Cobalt Blue, Cobalt Teal, Cobalt Turquoise, Ultramarine Blue, Light Ultramarine Blue, Manganese Blue Historic Hue, and Phthalo Blue (green shade and yellow shade)

I have all these colors in my studio. I typically mix some small amount of one blue into another blue to create variations in hue and tone, and add other colors like yellow and white, grey or green to change the color absolutely. But, if you want cobalt blue, you have to use the tube that’s cobalt blue.


I hope you are inspired by the color blue. Your comments are welcome.



April 27, 2018

the artist with Metro twins at Upstream Gallery


The image nearby shows me standing with two acrylic paintings on canvas. I was at the Upstream Gallery installing my solo exhibition titled Duality/Assembly. The exhibition includes recent paintings and collages on canvas and wood panels.

My exhibition opens April 26 and closes May 20, 2018. Upstream Gallery is located at 8 Main Street in Hastings-on-Hudson, NY.  Gallery hours are Thursday to Sunday, 12:30-5:30. The opening reception is Sunday, April 29th, 2-5 pm.



I have a new fascination with diptychs, doubles and twins. Twins (identical and fraternal) fascinate me because there’s a paradoxical doubling: two the same and two different.  Identical twins share the same sex and (usually) the same features. Fraternal twins can be the same sex or different and may not even look alike. Fraternal twins are really just siblings, but they share a lot of the same closeness as identical twins because they were womb-mates. My diptychs are fraternal twins.

I call the paintings above Metro Twins. I see them as a kind of diptych because they are together and their colors and patterns are related.

I like to put things together. Diptychs allow me to play with doubles. Diptychs also ask the viewer to look at the differences and similarities, so the viewer is connected in the process in viewing the art and can make very interesting observations. Every diptych in the Duality/Assembly exhibition is about relationships and a metaphor for the spaces we share. Both Metro twin paintings touch and are placed so they stand on the same height above the floor. Metro 6 on the left is taller (60”x36”) and Metro Teal on the right is shorter (42”x40”), but the lines in the grid and the pattern of squares connect. Both paintings are acrylic on canvas. Both paintings are about color relationships and shared space.


Nikkal, Blue Triangle Diptych, acrylic and collage, 24″x32″



The image nearby, titled Blue Triangle Diptych, is made on two wood panels, each 24” high by 16” wide. The left panel is painted paper collage. The right panel is acrylic painting. The triangles are different shapes and sizes.  The colors are blue, and black (and brown) in the left panel and blue, green, black, white and caramel in the right panel. They’re fraternal twins.





Nikkal standing by 2 paintings at Upstream Gallery



The image nearby shows me standing in front of two acrylic paintings that are still placed on the floor, waiting to be hung on the wall. There are 6 paintings at the exhibition. Most show color relationships. Some of the colors are greens; others are blues. The painting on the left is titled Nines. It’s a medley of black and white colors, acrylic on canvas, 60”x36”. I added a lot of painted paper collage as I worked on the painting.  You can see all the papers when you stand in front of the painting. On the right is a painting I titled Jacob’s Ladder. It’s one of three paintings at the exhibition with the same title, all exploring triangles where blue is the dominant color. If you come to the exhibition you can see how each one is different – and you can ask me to tell you the meaning of the title Jacob’s Ladder.





Nikkal, B&W Triangles, acrylic and collage, 32’x40


The image nearby shows a collage with white and black painted papers on canvas. It’s titled Black and White Triangles, 32”x40” and installed near the gallery entry.  I love to work with colors like green and blue, but also like to create with black and white paint and painted papers. In this collage, I’m layering triangle shapes to show positive and negative space. I’ve created several black and white triangle collages on 24”x16” panels and put them together for this exhibition as diptychs and doubles.

If you visit the gallery, you’ll see one double installed as two panels hung horizontally, one above the other. The top panel is titled White on Black Triangles. The lower panel is titled Black on White Triangles.  Both are 16” tall and 24” wide. They are almost identical twins.

I show a diptych with two 24”x16” panels hung vertically, each touching the other. Together they are 24”x32”.  One is a grid with triangles. The other is a geometric abstraction with stripes and circles. I decided to put them together and let the viewer ask: why do they go together? Is it because they’re the same size done as paining/collage on panel, or the fact that they’re both black and white?



Duality/Assembly is about putting things together. The exhibition includes works in the Metro series with squares that were never in line, but held in place, and works in the Triangle series that show triangles that intrude under, over and into another’s space. I think all the paintings and collages are an abstract representation about the spaces in which we live, how we live with others and how we share our spaces.


Nikkal, Roll Call, acrylic and collage on canvas, 14″x14″



The image at left is titled Roll Call. You can see it as soon as you walk into the gallery. Its acrylic and collage on canvas, 12”x12” framed to 14”x14” and part of a new series titled Curvy Geometric. I included several small works from the Curvy Geometric series because they are small and done with black and white painted papers I thought they fit in well with the other works in black and white.






There are two gallery rooms at Upstream. I have my works in the East room. Two new gallery artists will also show works at Upstream in the West room: Antonio Alvarez does abstract acrylic paintings and Madlyn Goldman does found wood assemblage sculpture and collage. There’s a lot to see.


If you are nearby, I hope you will stop by and see the exhibitions. Upstream Gallery hours are Thursday to Sunday, 12:30-5:30.

Infinite Space

Infinite Space is the title for Paul Greco’s solo show at Upstream Gallery in Hastings on Hudson New York (through Sunday, April 15th). Paul is a gallery artist at Upstream and this is his 8thsolo exhibition. Also showing is Cecily A. Spitzer, with abstract paintings on paper and canvas. Visit Upstream Gallery (Thursday – Sunday, 12:30-5:30) at 8 Main Street, Hastings on Hudson, NY. Paul’s exhibit includes painted metal fragments combined as diptychs and triptychs on white backgrounds. The exhibit also includes a wall installation with multiple individual fragments, a very large 3-panel abstract painting on canvas with fabric, paint, and collaged newspaper clippings about UFO sightings, a ceiling–hung mobile and a stabile (sculpture) on a pedestal made with wood, string and found metal.


I am fascinated with Paul’s passion for finding discarded metal fragments on the highway and turning the fragments into art. Almost every work on exhibit is made with found metal fragments. Paul calls them SCFs (space craft fragments). The work seen below is titled Quetzalcoatl (SCF Diptych #2). It’s 15×30 inches (framed) and made with 2 found metal pieces on a white background. Paul painted the metal fragments with black and white acrylic in multiple paint layers. He didn’t alter either of the two metal pieces, but, notice how the image looks as if both pieces were cut to match. None of the metal was cut.


Paul Greco, Quetzalcoatl SCF Diptych #2, painted metal, 15×30 inches


I asked Paul if he is interested in mythology. Paul says he’s interested in the unknown and the unseen reality all around us. He is fascinated with UFOs and crop circles. He visited fourteen Crop Circles in 2008 in Wiltshire England and said it was an amazing experience. Quetzalcoatl (pron. Quet-zal-co-at) was one of the most important gods in ancient Mesoamerica. Known as the plumed Serpent, he is a mix of bird and rattle snake. Quetzalcoatl was regarded as the god of winds and rain and as the creator of the world and mankind. Read more here.


Paul Greco, ET Buddha, found metal


The image seen nearby is titled ET Buddha, and is constructed with painted metal, organized on a framed white background. The body is holey.  The image below is titled 96 Tears (SCF #96). It’s 21×27 inches. Notice the yellow line in the middle of the metal. Paul says a road crew painted the line – paying no attention to the metal lying in the middle of the road. Paul painted his signature abstract designs in black and white acrylic over the metal and the yellow line.







Paul Greco, 96 Tears, found metal, acrylic paint


I asked Paul how he finds his metal fragments. He said he stops whenever and wherever he sees flattened metal on the highway anywhere in the Metro New York area. Between 1993 and 1998, Paul found 51 pieces that became his first series of signature found metal shapes. Between 2015 and 2018, he collected a second series with 115 pieces.


I asked if he’s ever left a fragment on the road. He said he’s left fragments if they are not “right.” If he likes the fragment he usually gets an idea for how to work with it – for example – which side of the metal to embellish with paint, but it takes a while to decide which pieces should go together. Paul paints symbols onto the found metal pieces. The SCFs range in size from very small to large.



Paul Greco with his mobile and stabile sculpture


The image here shows Paul standing near his mobile (Space Debris Mobile #3), and a new stabile (Space Debris Stabile #1). The mobile is made with string and acrylic on found metal, 26×36 inches. The stabile sculpture is made with string, acrylic on found metal, redwood cactus and bamboo, 8x16x25 inches.

A mobile is a type of kinetic (moving) sculpture made with rods and weighted objects that hang from the rods and balance each other.  A stabile is an abstract sculpture that is stationary.

On the back wall, behind the mobile,  is a painted metal wall piece titled SCF Grouping – Yellow Tail. Paul is leaning on the wall, near the work titled Down the Rabbit Hole: SCF Triptych #3.






Paul Greco and his wall grouping with painted metal fragments.


The image here shows Paul standing near his wall installation with painted metal fragments. Each piece is unique (sold separately) and can be assembled in variable arrangements. I asked Paul if he plans to create a large wall installation because he’s collected and painted so many fragments. He said he’d like to do one with 80 pieces and fill an entire wall in the gallery.







Paul Greco, Confirmation, mixed media triptych painting, 48×108 inches


The image here is a triptych painting on 3 canvas panels (each 48×36 inches), total size is 48×108 inches.  Titled Confirmation, it’s mixed media with printed fabric, over-painted, transfer prints, and collaged newspaper clippings. The painting is an abstract design in white, black, blue and pink. Shapes are circles and ovals and the painting is space themed. The newspaper text (NY Times) is about UFOs.





I asked Paul about comments from people who visited the exhibit. He says people respond most to his new large triptych titled Confirmation – but also to the funny, funky portrait of his cat Tina. You’ll have to visit Upstream Gallery to see Portrait of Tina. There’s a lot to see. Read more about Upstream Gallery and, if you want to read more about Tina the cat, be sure to visit Paul’s Facebook Page.


Nikkal, B&W and Red (2018) collage 14×11 inches


I created the collage seen nearby as a sample for a class I teach at the Pelham Art Center in Pelham, NY. My collage is on a 14×11 inch Bristol paper substrate. It’s designed as an abstract grid and includes a bottom and a top layer. The bottom layer is the image below – a large page from W magazine that shows a model sitting in a field of flowers, holding a flower in his hand. The magazine image was almost as big as the 14×11 inch substrate. I glued it down and added a top layer made with small papers from art magazine that show stripes, round letter forms, half circles and bullseye shapes. There’s also a drawing with concentric circles with two lines that criss-cross the circle. Almost all of the top layer papers were printed text in black on white or white on black.





Nikkal, lower layer in the B&W and Red collage


This image is the bottom layer of the collage.  After I glued it down, I payed attention to the visual relationship between the new pieces and bottom image. I added papers so they touched and overlapped, paying attention to contrast and connecting patterns. I included papers with high contrast and some with low contrast.  I didn’t cover the entire first layer but you have to look closely to see where the bottom layer image peeks through. I added 4 tiny red collage papers last.






Black and White Are Colors

I think black and white are colors just like red, purple, blue, green and yellow. Black and white are potent because they are at opposite ends of brightness (in the value scale). I like high contrast. It can be dramatic. We pay attention to opposites and high contrast.


I showed my finished collage to the class. I showed an iPhone image of the magazine paper that was covered and underneath. I asked my students to go through the W magazines we have in class, tear out a page with a large black and white image and glue it to the Bristol paper substrate as the first step. Their second step for this collage was to look through art magazines and find papers for the top layer. WE all used the same magazines, but you will see they selected papers with a lot more red.


See images below of black & white and red collages done by students in my classes at the Pelham Art Center.



Chris Timmons, B&W and Red collage (2018)


The image at left is by Chris Timmons. She used stripes, dots and circles in black white and red. You can see part of an image from her bottom layer. It’s a face partially covered by a red half-circle in the center of the collage. Chris added a second face on the right edge of the collage, facing sideways to balance the horizontal white on black stripes.








Ilene Bellovin, B&W and Red Collage (2018)



The image at left is by Ilene Bellovin. She used red, grey, black and white horizontal strips  for collage over her bottom layer. Notice there is a sense of a figure in this collage where the image peeks through the paper strips.




Leslie Cowen, B&W and Red Collage





The image at left is by Leslie Cowen. You can see a building face with fire escapes. That image is her bottom layer in the collage. Leslie cut and pasted a vintage image of Jackie Kennedy in the upper right. Notice there is a cartoon drawing in the lower center that looks like eyes. Notice Leslie pasted in text in white on red, white on black and black on white throughout her collage to add to the rhythm of the diagonals in the fire escapes.







The Magic of the Color Red


Red is one of the top two favorite colors of all people. Red captures our attention. It’s one of the most visible colors, second only to yellow. The history of languages reveals that red is the first color after black and white (all languages have words for black and white). If a third hue exists, it is red. When using red, where it’s placed and what it’s next to makes a big difference. I tell my students to use red as an accent color because a little bit of red goes a long way.


Here are more images in B&W and Red by students in my collage classes.


Estelle Laska, B&W and Red Collage (2018)



The image at left is by Estelle Laska. I believe the background layer in the collage is an image of a woman in a white dress. Estelle always makes narrative collage with a story and here she shows us her love of fashion illustration with collage she found of vintage drawings of ladies with long gowns and round hats. Estelle even included paper text with the words Fearless Fashion in the lower center of her collage, and used a red letter “A”, red quotation marks (on the right side), and a large open donut shape cut from red paper.






Harriet Goldberg, B&W and Red Collage (2018)


The image at left is by Harriet Goldberg. I can see part of the image of a building facade in the lower layer in the collage. Harriet cut two drawings with the letter “X” and pasted them in the upper and lower portions of her collage. Above the lower “X” he pasted a drawing of a cute face. It’s the same drawing that Leslie Cowen used in her collage. Harriet added red paper over the lips in the drawing, and cut and pasted 10 more red magazine and painted papers over her collage in a horizontal and vertical pattern to mimic the design in the buildings behind.






Paulette Coleman, B&W and Red Collage (2018)


The image at left is by Paulette Coleman. I think Paulette likes to work on a square substrate and probably cut it down from 14×11 inches to 11×11 inches. She used the white substrate as a background, and then pasted various magazine papers in red, black and white on top. There’s a rhythm of squares, dots and stripes that move horizontally, vertically and diagonally throughout. Notice the portrait of a face in profile on the lower left. Notice the sliced image of a red titanium red balloon by Jeff Koons on the lower right. Notice how reds balance the four corners of this collage.







Nelly Edmonson, B&W and Red Collage (2018)


The image at left is by Nelly Edmonson. You can see she used a duplicate (copy) image of the building facade with fire escapes. Harriet Goldberg used the same paper for her background. Nelly added red netting on the upper left to give a pink cast to the collage. You can see the pasted image of the building behind the red netting. Nelly strategically placed small red papers into the image of the building in the bottom layer. Notice the b&w face on the right. A lot of the papers mimic the diagonal patterns in the building fire escapes and lead your eye back into the image on the bottom layer.







Joseph Albers, The Interaction of Color, oil on panel.


Finally, here is an abstract painting by Joseph Albers (German-born American, 1888-1976), titled The Interaction of Color. This painting shows variations in the color red. Albers was an artist, educator and wrote extensively about color. Each painting consisted of either three or four squares of solid colors nested within each other to show how colors change when they are placed next to other colors. Read more about Joseph Albers here.




Read more about the color red here.

Creating a collage in two layers is challenging. You are working against an image. Working with black and white makes you focus on value and contrast.  Adding the color red, makes you selective in where you place the color.

Would you like to make a collage in black and white and red? Email me and ask for a free PDF for this project.

Your comments are welcome.


nikkal, NINES, 60×36 (2015) original version


I challenged myself to change a painting I completed in 2015, because I didn’t like the rough patches of paint on the surface and also wanted to simplify the geometric design. See the original version nearby.

NINES was exhibited recently in a 3-person show titled In the Space of Spirit (Nov 16, 2017 to Jan 11, 2018) at the Lakefront Gallery at the Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in Hamilton, NJ. It was a big show. I had 23 works in the show, including large paintings and framed collages. Karen Fitzgerald, who organized the show, and Kristin Reed were there other two artists. Sheila Geisler selected and hung the show on the huge mezzanine level at the Lakefront Gallery.






NINES at the Lakefront Gallery



The image nearby shows NINES on the Lakefront Gallery wall, flanked on the left by Kristin Reed’s 2 works and on the right by Karen Fitzgerald’s two works. Notice there is a large number nine painted in dark grey in the upper left side of my painting. The exhibition was reviewed in a Times of Trenton article: Lakefront Gallery Fine Arts: ‘In the Space of Spirit’ | (Nov 29, 2017). Janet Purcell wrote about NINES: “Pay careful attention to her (Nikkal’s) large acrylic on canvas where the number nine sometimes appears prominently and other times only obscurely. “ Purcell added a statement by Sheila Geisler: “Her (Nikkal’s) adept manipulations of contrasting color create a sense of movement – the surfaces seem to breathe. She is dedicated to exploring the layering of materials as well as the layering of form and pattern.” I was pleased with the review and the recognition that my abstract geometric works are always about surfaces and layering.




I brought NINES back to my studio on January 11th, looked closely at the way it was painted and decided I definitely would change it. On January 25th a pithy post arrived via email from Seth Godin to accept the challenge to begin. The post is titled Beginning is Underrated. Read the post.



Merely beginning.

With inadequate preparation, because you will never be fully prepared.

With imperfect odds of success, because the odds are never perfect.

Begin. With the humility of someone who’s not sure, and the excitement of someone who knows that it’s possible.



NINES in progress, close up view


The image nearby is a close up of the painting after I started to make changes. I wrote myself a work memo: Sand Nines when you arrive at the studio to make the surface smoother. Plan to use a sand block. Scrub gently in a circular motion. It’s hard to tell from this close-up, but I turned the painting upside down so the top is now the bottom. Look at the center of the painting here and notice the painted paper collage. The papers shows up because I reduced the layers of paint with sanding. Notice the cut paper letter D on the right sided. I started to add new collage. The paper, a reverse letter D is not glued down yet.







nikkal, NINES, acrylic and collage on canvas (2017)


The image nearby is the new version of the painting. I painted out the large number 9 and large grey oval shape in the original painting. I painted large areas with thin layers of white acrylic to soften the grey yellow tones and unify the design. I changed a yellow square to grey. As I worked, I wiped the acrylic paint gently to reveal undertones. With the turnaround, the nines became sixes so I knew I would have to add more collage numbers to keep the title NINES. FYI: when I am working on a painting, I always paint papers at the same time. That way I have collage papers with colors that match.I eliminated the yellow gold bar at the bottom, the yellow stripe on the right and little gold square on the left.







I will show NINES soon in a group exhibition titled Black White & Grey at the Upstream Gallery in Hastings on Hudson, NY March 1-18, 2018. I am a member of the gallery and NINES now has the right colors for the group show. It’s all black and white and grey.



I found another Seth Godin post, dated January 21, 2018, that says exactly what I think and feel about this process. It’s titled The Gap. Read it here.


There’s a gap between where you are and where you want to be.

Many gaps, in fact, but imagine just one of them.

That gap–is it fuel? Are you using it like a vacuum, to pull you along, to inspire you to find new methods, to dance with the fear?

Or is it more like a moat, a forbidding space between you and the future?


What did I learn?

Go for it. There are always gaps. Dance with the fear. You can make it work.


Your comments are welcome.


If you are in Westchester County, NY, please stop by the Upstream Gallery, 8 Main Street, Hastings-on-Hudson, NY and see the exhibition (March 1-18). Gallery hours are Thursday to Sunday, 12:30-5:30. Come to the reception Sunday, March 4th, 2-4 pm. The show includes various media, all interpreting black, white and grey.

The Abundance of Images

December 13, 2017


I live in Metro NYC and see a lot of contemporary art. I also find images online. You can too. The Internet is a great resource for information and images.

Yayoi Kusama flower painting

The image above is a flower painting by the Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama (born 1929). Notice the colors are red, green yellow, black and blue. It’s a stylized flower with stem and leaves and a crackle-texture black on red background. Notice the detail and pattern. You may think it looks like a simple flower painting, but probably also think it is very appealing.

Kusama is known for obsessive, dot-covered art and pumpkin motifs, as well as the use of mirrors to create mystical “Infinity Rooms.” The image below shows the artist in a saffron orange and black polka dot dress sitting on the edge of a platform installation with walls and floors in the same color and polka dot design with a pumpkin sculpture behind her in the same colors and design. The artist is part of the installation. The image was reproduced in an Artsy article titled The Top 14 Living Artists of 2014 and was taken at the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art (2010). I have the image, on a Pinterest Board titled Yayoi Kusama. I have 117 pins that show Kusama and her art. It is the most popular board of all (image of Yayoi Kusama courtesy Artsy, published January 18, 2015).

Yayoi Kusama in front of her pumpkin sculpture

Kusama says “My artwork is an expression of my life, particularly of my mental disease.” She has been plagued by mental illness and hallucinations since childhood. She uses her hallucinations and mental illness as material to stimulate an incredible artistic output in every discipline. Her colors and patterns are opulent and decorative. At the age of 88, Kusama is one of the most unique and famous contemporary female artists alive today. Her works include paintings, sculpture, photography, installation, performance and Conceptual art. She lives in a mental hospital in Japan and works every day in a nearby studio.

Yayoi Kusama Infinity Mirrors at the Hirschhorn Museum

The image above is a view of Infinity Mirrors, originally at the Hirschhorn Museum, Washington, DC. Read about Infinity Mirrors. The show is currently at the Broad Museum in Los Angeles, CA (closes Jan 1, 2018) and will travel to the Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto (March 3-May 27, 2018), the Cleveland Museum of Art (July 9-Sept 30, 2018) and finally to the High Museum of Art (Nov 18, 2018 – Feb 17, 2019).

There are plans to build a museum for Yayoi Kusama’s art in Japan this coming year. Read more about Yayoi Kusama life and art here.



In a previous post, titled Connections, I wrote about an art project I organized and took to Albuquerque, NM in September 2017. The project included 21 mixed media collages by regional members of the Society of Layerists in Multi Media (SLMM). I am a regional coordinator for the Society.

I got email from Sharon Eley. She is a Midwest regional SLMM member and participated in the SLMM group exhibition I organized. She asked me to edit the post because I didn’t mention that her twin sister, Shirley Nachtrieb, was the person responsible for an exhibition I mentioned in the post. Shirley is the regional coordinator for the South Central SLMM membership. I edited the post and gave Shirley credit.

I was curious to see Shirley’s art and visited her website. She is an amazing watercolor artist. I saw flower images and it made me think about writing this post to show (and share) the images of Yayoi Kusama’s art and include images of flower collages by my students at the Pelham Art Center. See the images below. The student collages don’t look like Kusama’s flower paintings. They’re interpretive and personal. They are collage paintings because they include cut and pasted flower images  (from flower magazines) and painted papers on a painted and embellished  Bristol paper substrate. My students loved the flower collage project because it included so much mixed media. But, they also love other collage projects we do. Not everything is a flower.


Lynn Evansohn Flower Collage

Lynn Evansohn did the collage above. The flowers are cut from a botanical catalog I brought to class. Some of the papers are painted. Lynn painted the background with black acrylic and etched spiral twirls into the wet paint. The vase is all paper collage. Notice Lynn cut and pasted green painted paper dots at the bottom edge. I remember she said it was a tribute to the polka dots in Yayoi Kusama’s work.

Patty Towle did the collage below. She painted the background with black acrylic embellished it with tiny dots of various colored painted papers. The flowers and stems are cut and pasted decorative papers. Some flower petals have polka dots. She cut flowers and leaves from images in a flower catalog. Notice the dots that decorate the blue vase. Notice  the blue painted paper tiles Patty used to create the table, and notice the black spaces in between. The design mimics the black on red in Kusama’s flower painting seen above.


Patricia Towle Flower Collage


Mimi Wohlberg Flower Collage

Mimi Wohlberg did the collage above. She painted the background with black acrylic and embellished the surface with dots and circles. She painted the flower papers and stamped them with more dots. Notice the stem and leaves are cut from patterned green painted papers. The design is layered and all the pieces overlap with a sense of dimension.

Sylvia Lien did the collage below. Notice the landscape imagery behind the cut and pasted flower in a vase. Sylvia was inspired to create a collage that quoted a Kusama flower sculpture in a landscape setting. Notice how Sylvia’s flower petals and leaves are made with various papers from a flower catalog. Notice the flower stem. Sylvia cut and pasted yellow painted papers to shape a curved stem. I like the vase. It’s a simple rectangle shape, cut from a page in a flower catalog. This collage juxtaposes decorative papers and photo images to create abstract and natural elements.

Sylvia Lien Flower Collage

Sandra Graciadei did the collage below. She painted the background with black acrylic and  etched the open dot design into the wet paint. The vase was cut and pasted from a  magazine image found in ArtForum. Sandra painted papers for the leaves in the vase. The tiny flowers are cut from a flower catalog. Notice how Sandra fitted all the leaves and flower stems into the vase and how the flower stems extend beyond the edge of the black painted background. Notice how the stems mimic the width and abundance of the lines in the design on the vase. Details!

Sandra Graciadei Flower Collage

Estelle Laska did the collage below. Her collage is an interpretive quote of a  Kusama flower sculpture in an outdoor setting. Estelle painted the collage background with blue acrylic and used a palette knife to build texture as she painted. Her leaves and flowers are large papers cut from a flower catalog. Estelle added red and green painted paper polka dots to a rich golden yellow leaf shape at the bottom. Notice how the leaves extend beyond the borders of the painted background.

Estelle Laska Flower Collage

Harriet Goldberg did the collage below. She painted the background in black and green and added yellow and green polka dots. The yellow dots are press-on papers you find in stationery stores. The flowers are cut and pasted from painted papers and images from a flower catalog. The vase is decorative paper with dots. Notice how the flowers extend beyond the painted background. See all the patterns, colors  and layered papers. This collage is a riot of dots and definitely Kusama-inspired!

Harriet Goldberg Flower Collage

Leslie Cowen did the collage below. She painted the background with acrylic in blues and greens. There is a sense of diagonal movement as well as decoration. She etched into the paint with a palette knife. The large pink flower at the top extends beyond the painted background. Leslie cut and pasted her papers to make the flower image look dimensional and realistic. Some of the leaves and flowers are created with painted papers and some are images cut from a flower catalog. Realistic and abstract imagery is juxtaposed in this design. Notice how the leaves also extend beyond the edge of the painted background.

Leslie Cowen Flower Collage

Ilene Bellovin did the collage below. She painted the background with black acrylic and created her flowers with papers from a flower catalog. Notice the variations in color in the pink, yellow, red and violet flower petals. Ilene created the leaves with green painted papers. This collage is almost realistic. The flowers are cut and pasted papers arranged like a beautiful bouquet.

Ilene Bellovin Flower Collage

My students include adults at all skill levels. Beginners quickly become highly skilled collage makers. We work with fine art papers, everyday media, art magazines, including ArtForum, postcards and found papers. We embellish collage with drawing. We paint papers.

The flower collage project is a favorite. We’ve done it more than once. All the flower collages above include painting and mixed media collage on 14″ x 11″ Bristol paper substrate.

Sometimes I get resistance to projects that quote a famous artist. I argue that there is no way anyone can copy. Everything is an interpretation. And, more important, the process is an exercise that teaches you how to look carefully and study what you see. You notice colors, relationships, scale, proportion, and other design elements.

Question for YOU: Can you be inspired by an artist and make collage that quotes but doesn’t copy? Send me your comments.








I am the regional Northeast/Midwest coordinator for the Society of Layerists in Multi-Media (SLMM) and organized an art project titled Connections. I took the art to a national meeting in Albuquerque, NM.  Our project was one of several by members at the 35th anniversary SLMM meeting September 20-23, 2017. Twenty-one (21) Northeast and Midwest SLMM members created the art here. See all the images below.

The Society (SLMM) was founded by Mary Carroll Nelson (Albuquerque, NM) and is a national organization that meets each year in a different city.

I wrote this post and included all these images because many artists who participated in the project were unable to attend the meeting in Albuquerque and wanted to see their art. The image here is one side of the four sided installation. See close-up views of the works below.

The project started in May 2017 when I contacted SLMM Northeast/Midwest regional members and invited them to make a collage with shared media. I told them I would take the art project to the annual SLMM meeting in Albuquerque, NM.  I sent a packet of assorted collage papers to everyone who agreed to participate and said they should design their art with painting, drawing, text and/or collage, but had to include at least a few of the shared papers in their work. The project goal was to show how sharing art papers connected every work. I titled the project Connections. Below are 3 images, seen above on the double panel.

Collage by Deanna Funk

Collage is by Deanna Funk (Springfield, IL), Untitled, 11 x 8.5 inches, acrylic and assorted papers.

Collage by Sylvia Harnick

Collage is by Sylvia Harnick (Great Neck, NY), Untitled, 8.5 x 11 inches, photo transfer, acrylic and assorted papers.

Collage by Nancy Egol Nikkal

Collage by Nancy Egol Nikkal (White Plains, NY), titled Red, 11 x 8.5 inches, magazine, tissue and painted papers. Notice my work (above) and the work by Sylvia Harnick (above) both include the shared tissue paper with white dots on red.

Here is part of the text I wrote that is printed on the first panel:

“We are geographically apart but connected with art and the Premise of SLMM. The Midwest SLMM members are: Mary Ann Beckwith, Sylvia Bowers, Sharon Eley, Deanna Funk, Catherine Keebler, Suzan Kraus, Susan Lince, Annie Morgan, and Patricia Tuglus (she has moved to Asheville, NC but did the art for this project). The Northeast SLMM members are: Marie Cummings, Sylvia Harnick, Alice Harrison, Mary Kralj, Valerie Lewis Mankoff, Nancy Marculewicz, Joya Maxwell, Patricia McCandless, Ruth Bauer Neustadter, Nancy Egol Nikkal, Ellen Reinkraut and Gordana Vukovic.

I added: I hope it was a gratifying project for everyone who created the art, and I hope you enjoy it too.”


I sent each participating artist a materials packet and included instructions for how the project would work. The substrate (back paper) for the project was warm white, 8.5 x 11 inches and strong enough for paint and collage as well as printing. I said their work could be horizontal or vertical. This meant the final design for the project depended on how many were horizontal and how many were vertical. More than 21 artists signed on at the beginning, but a few dropped out at the end. I couldn’t plan the layout until all the art arrived. Ultimately, I designed the project for 21 works on 8 panels. I planned to assemble the panels in Albuquerque into an open 3 dimensional box, 2 rows high on 4 sides. One side had text on the top row, and 3 works of art on the bottom row. The three remaining panels had 6 works each in a double row.  The project had to be flat to travel and assembled on site. The 8 panels were cut to 14 x 38 inches from 3 sheets of  light weight black FoamCore board.

Kathleen Kuchar took the image (above) at the hotel in Albuquerque. It shows two sides of the installation. You see on the left there is text and 3 images. The image to the right shows part of the 6 images in two rows. The image below shows one side of the installation with 6 images, followed by 6 close up views of the individual artist’s works.

Notice there are printed artist statements on the black tablecloth in front of the installation. Several SLMM artists included comments with their art work.

Above collage is by Gordana Vukovic (Slingerlands, NY), Untitled, 11 x 8.5 inches, acrylic and assorted papers. I am sure I sent her the green painted paper seen on the lower right. Notice a tiny half circle of the printed red dot tissue paper in the center.


Above collage is by Marie Cummings (Treadwell, NY), Untitled, 8.5 x 11 inches, acrylic and assorted papers. Marie included an artist statement: I see life as multi-faceted, richly textured and complex and my art reflects that perception. Ultimately, I hope viewers feel this expressive freedom when they see my work. I want people to delight in the colors and whimsy, to experience a sense of happiness, to enjoy this reminder of what it means to be alive.”


Above collage is by Ellen Reinkraut (Franklin Lakes, NJ), titled The Horizon, 11 x 8.5 inches, acrylic and assorted papers. Notice Ellen used red printed text and painting.


Above collage is by Joya Maxwell (Wakefield, RI), Untitled, 11 x 8.5 inches, collage with assorted papers and hand lettering. I am pretty sure I included yellow hand-made paper in the packet, seen in the upper left corner. Joya included a  printed image of a hummingbird and added the words spirit, thoughts and feelings in her own hand.


Above collage is by Suzan Kraus (Newbury, OH), titled Three, 11 x 8.5 inches, collage with assorted papers. In this image you see the shared white dot on red and black squiggle on black shared tissue paper, plus shared acid green painted papers.


Above collage is by Susan Lince (Chaska, MN), titled Homage to the Birches, 11 x 8.5 x .5 inches. Susan included the shared green and yellow papers and added real moss and birch wood to her work. This work drew a lot of attention because of its message.

How I Assembled the Project:

Before I show you more images, let me tell you how I prepared the project. I had to wait until all the art arrived to determine how the works would be assembled and what work went next to another. I curated the project like an exhibition on a wall, except I planned the project as a table top installation. I wanted the works to look well together as guests walked around all four sides. The project had to be sturdy but light. It had to be assembled and disassembled because I had to travel with it. FoamCore was a good choice for the support because it was light, came in large sheets and could be cut to size. I was able to purchase black Foam Core and attached the art to the boards before I left NY for Albuquerque. I glued the text to one panel and glued “labels” under each art work, but used double sided tape to attach the art. I wanted to be able to separate the art from the boards so I could return the works to the artists. I discovered the double sided tape was not strong enough for the heavier collages, so I had to reattach quite a few with heavier tape when I arrived in Albuquerque. I cut glassine paper to the panel size, and placed a sheet in between each panel to protect the art while it traveled. The wrapped package was about 40 x 14 x 10 inches high. It didn’t weigh that much and I was able to place the package in the overhead compartment on the plane. At the hotel in Albuquerque, my roommate, Terri MacDonald (Hays, KS) helped me assemble the 8 panels into a 3 dimensional installation with four sides and two rows per side. It became a double-decker box (open on the inside) with the art work facing out.  I used 8 wood slats to support the inside (back) of the assembled FoamCore panels. I traveled with the wood and the 8 panels together. Thank you Terri for helping me get this project assembled! We placed the installation on a round banquet table in the hotel meeting room our group used for all the events, workshop and banquet dinner.

See 6 images below of works by individual artists. I didn’t get a good image of the 6 works together, but include an image of 3 works in one row so you see how 3 works looked next to each other.

Above collage is by Sylvia Bowers (Columbus, OH), titled Variations on a Theme, 11 x 8.5 inches. I think Sylvia painted yellow and ecru white stripes in her background and then pasted papers on top.

Above collage is by Valerie Lewis Mankoff (Kinnelon, NJ), titled Between Generations. I believe this collage includes painting on the back and a family photo of Valerie and her grandson.


Above collage is by Patricia Tuglus (Oak Brook, IL now living in Asheville, NC), Untitled, 11 x 8.5 inches. This collage includes  a yellow and black painted background and yellow, red and blue hand-made papers. I see an image of a house in a cloudy, turbulent landscape. I see tiny pieces of black squiggle tissue papers that we shared. It looks like some of the hand-made papers are torn by hand. I see soft edges in the cloud shapes.


The view (above) shows the 3 works by Sylvia Bowers, Valerie Lewis Mankoff and Patricia Tuglus that were attached to the top row of the panel. Golden yellow is the unifying color. The 3 works (below) by Alice Harrison, Nancy Marculewicz and Catherine Keebler were on the bottom row of the same panel, seen left to right.


Above collage is by Alice Harrison (Morristown, NJ), titled CONNECTIONS, 8.5 x 11 inches. Alice cut and glued multi-color papers into a spiral shape that travels across the horizontal space in her work. It would be interesting to know a little more about the images of the buildings and other collage elements.

Above collage is by Nancy Marculewicz (Peabody, MA), 11 x 8.5 inches. Nancy wrote she started the collage, stopped working, feeling frustrated, unable to get inspired by the papers included in the packet. She decided to reread the instructions and realized she could incorporate some pieces of her own monotypes in the project piece. She said she felt like she had entered a special zone and now she knew exactly what to do and how to do it. She says she will continue to re-work old monotypes with new media. Nancy is the author of the book titled Making Monotypes Using a Gelatin Plate.

Above collage is by Catherine Keebler (Chicago, IL), Untitled, 11 x 8.5 inches, acrylic, glitter and assorted papers. If you see this work in person, it looks like a tapestry with rich texture and tiny patterns. The light green paper that looks like a grape cluster was included in the packet I sent.

Comments about the Art Project

Northeast and Midwest regional SLMM members asked me if people at the meeting commented on the works in our display. There were lots of comments – I wish I wrote them all down. Here are two very thoughtful comments: “Exhibitions of layered art demonstrate a subtle affirmation that serves as a leavening in this time of extreme divisiveness and chaos” and “Every time you create a work the universe expands and connects more.”

Following are images by 6 more artists in the project. The first image is a view of all 6 works in 2 rows on the panel. The works in the top row, left to right, are by Sharon Eley, Anne L. Morgan and Mary Kralj.  The works in the bottom row, left to right are by Mary Ann Beckwith, Ruth Bauer Neustadter and Patricia McCandless.

Collage above is by Sharon Eley (Chillicothe, OH), titled A MAN’S WORLD, 11 x 8.5 inches, with pencil, pen, mixed media and assorted papers. It’s hard to see, but there is a small, round metal object in the center of the collage.

Collage above is by Anne L. Morgan (Grand Haven, MI), Untitled, 8.5 x 11 inches. Notice the cursive hand writing, red pencil, painting and collage. I see a sliver of the shared tissue paper with white dots on red plus other dotted tissue papers.

Collage above is by Mary Kralj (Silver Springs, MD), titled UNSPOKEN, 11 x 8.5 inches.  Notice there is vertical script in the center. The work includes painting, paper collage and gold leaf. Mary wrote she included a block of “asemic” writing (in the center). She added: “The piece was intended to convey a number of contrasts to hopefully generate a sense of centererd energy beyond our everyday left brain search for verbal meaning.”

Collage above is by Mary Ann Beckwith (Hancock, MI), Untitled, 11 x 8.5 inches. Notice the woven strips of cut papers that intersect with a metal ring.  Purple is the dominant color. Notice  circles, dots and squares throughout. See purple dots on tan paper tucked behind the metal ring. The purple dotted paper was included in the shared packet.


Collage above is by Ruth Bauer Neustadter (Hackensack, NJ), Untitled, 8.5 x 11 inches, acrylic and mixed media. This work is lush and highly textured with paint and media. The dotted strips sparkle.

Collage above is by Patricia McCandless (Paoli, PA), titled PAPER SOLO, 11 x 8.5 inches. This collage is created with cut paper and the amount of cut papers is amazing. The text on the bottom reads: “Into Penns Woods”  – No Paint – No Pen – No Ink –  Only Layers of Exquisite Paper.


Here is information about the Albuquerque SLMM conference. Laura Pope, Southwest regional coordinator and her crew, organized a spectacular 3-day event.

We arrived and checked into the Hotel Albuquerque on Wednesday, September 20th. During the day I attended a Board of Directors meeting as a regional coordinator. At 5:30 pm we gathered  for an informal reception at a hotel outdoor pavilion.  SLMM President Jaleh Etemad welcomed assembled members and guests to the meeting. The weather was warm and gorgeous.

The 3-day itinerary included a bus trip to Santa Fe to see art, a day to visit the National Hispanic Cultural Center and the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center and Museum, a creative workshop inspired by images from Petroglyph National Park in Albuquerque, NM, and a banquet dinner with a Flamenco dance performance. It was a great time to reconnect with friends. I’ve visited Albuquerque and Santa Fe previously and love the art and energy in the Southwest U.S. Three days is never enough.

I didn’t walk Canyon Road. (I’ve done it before). Instead, I spent 2 hours at Meow Wolf, a converted bowling alley that’s become an immense, immersive art installation. The current installation is called the House of Eternal Return. Read about it here. SLMM Southwest regional members recommended Meow Wolf as the place to see in Santa Fe. I’m so glad I did. The image above is Terri MacDonald (Hays, KS) in the long entry corridor looking up at the lights. I took iPhone photos in every room, stairwell and corridor at Meow Wolf. I was standing on a balcony here. Everywhere you look is a light show, bursting with color, fantasy and technology. Over 100 local artists collaborated in the design.

I also didn’t stop at museums on Museum Hill or visit galleries as our tour bus made a loupe around the art venues in Santa Fe. I visited the New Mexico Capitol Rotunda Gallery to see an exhibition of handmade artists’ books by members of the Santa Fe Book Arts Group (titled Portable Magic: The Art of the Book, through December 15, 2017).

The Capitol building is also an arts venue. The state of NM is a proud arts patron. I was so glad I visited the Capital building. I saw paintings, prints, tapestries, etc. by established NM artists on several floors in the building.

Our SLMM Albuquerque conference included a group art workshop inspired by petroglyphs and a talk by Dr. Matthew Schmader who spoke about rock art’s place in human and cultural history. Petroglyph National Monument is located on the West Mesa in Albuquerque, NM. They say the park is a Landscape of Symbols – one of the largest petroglyph sites in North America, featuring designs and symbols carved onto volcanic rocks by Native Americans and Spanish settlers 400-700 years ago. Read more here. I’ve been to Petroglyph National Monument. It’s fabulous.

We visited the National Hispanic Cultural Center and were treated to a wonderful docent tour. We saw a huge installation of piñatas. The image here is Mary Carroll Nelson, SLMM founder. She’s wearing an orange hat and standing under the piñatas at the NHCC. The back wall behind Mary is a huge installation with pinata tissue papers.






On the same day we visited the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center and Museum and saw world-renowned historic and contemporary Pueblo pottery, baskets, weaving, painting, murals, jewelry and photos. The image here is of me standing next to a Pueblo statue.  Do you think we look alike? Did you notice we have the same hairstyle? Our evening itinerary included a banquet and a Flamenco performance by an ensemble of young, talented and passionate dancers.



Here are 3 final images that show SLMM regional art projects.

The image above is Mary Carroll Nelson (photo courtesy Kathleen Kuchar) . She’s looking at a portfolio of art brought to Albuquerque by members of the Pacific/Canada Region. I also had a chance to view the works and hold the art in my hand. Very special.

The image above (courtesy Kathleen Kuchar) is a wall installation at the Albuquerque hotel – individual paintings and mixed media works attached together with rings. The works are by SLMM members of the Southwest/West/International region.

The image above is a wall installation titled “Reflection of Myself” – all 12 x 12s – done by SLMM members from the Deep South/South Central region (the work is currently at St. Peters Cultural Arts Centre, St. Peters, MO).  The exhibition was curated and organized by Shirley Nachtrieb, regional coordinator for the Deep South/South Central region. The works weren’t installed at the hotel in Albuquerque – I got this image from Kathleen Kuchar, but I’ve included it here to show art from all the SLMM regional members.


I traveled back to NY with the art re-wrapped as a flat parcel, tucked into the overhead compartment on the plane. I disassembled the project at my studio, took new photos of the individual works, and then sent the art back to their owners.

It’s your turn: Please add your comments. Email me. Tell me if you’ve heard about Meow Wolf and have visited Santa Fe or Albuquerque, NM.  Do you have comments about the art seen here? Have you visited Petroglyph National Park, the National Hispanic Cultural Center or the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center and Museum?

Thank you again to Laura Pope and her team who organized this fabulous meeting. Here is a link to the SLMM website to learn more about the SLMM Premise and membership. The 2018 national meeting will take place in Tacoma, WA next year in late August.