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mat board collagraph
Garden Watch 7×7 Collagraph with colored pencil (available here)

Colored Pencils on a Collagraph of a Great Dane

Colored pencils provide immediate, no fuss, easy-peasey art making on the fly.

Even if you’re traveling, it doesn’t take much to pull out a handful of colored pencils and a sketchbook to make something fun and meditative.

In lieu of a sketchbook, I worked on a collagraph this week, and it was splendidly calming, despite the chaos caused by the fire.

And speaking of disruption, thank you to everyone who left wonderful emails, comments and messages on social media about the fire. We are all hiking towards normal.

air quality in ventura after thomas fire
Air quality here in Ventura still requires respirators, but it’ll get better when the fire is finally knocked down.


The air quality here still requires a respirator, and the Thomas Fire ash and soot on the hillside that was our backyard finds every pin-hole opening in the house to move inside.

But we have a house for the ash to sneak into. #lucky

We’re so grateful for the firefighters – almost 9000 of them now – from many other cities and states. 

I can hardly imagine the depth of character it takes to fight fires for a living. 

These good folks left family during the peak of Christmas season, to jump towards the fire rather than away from it. 

They saved homes and lives of people they’ll never meet. Most folks in demanding jobs require a little atta-boy acknowledgement for working long hours. But firefighters risk their lives in evacuated neighborhoods, and they rarely meet the families who live in the homes they save.

I’m so grateful, I could burst.

thomas fire
Recurring blanket of ash on the floors, no matter how many times I wet mop it up
mat board collagraph
Pulling the collagraph print after a trip through the press. Do you need a supply list?

Clear the Air

When things like fires, floods or hurricanes happen, you get a clear jolt of perspective.

How about that painting I was fretting over earlier this month?

What about the collagraph I was frustrated with?

Which excuse did I lean on for not making art the day the fire started? 

Everything under the heading of artist-angst pales next to something truly fret-worthy, right?

Shouldn’t we be making art every day, because no matter how much the results might suck, creating is EASY. 

We complicate being creative with ego.  Making art is beautiful. It’s a form of expression, like singing and dancing. Who would squelch the process and throw the mud of judgement on a child happily scribbling with crayons? 

That’s what we do to ourselves when we smack-talk our own efforts at art making.

mat board collagraph
The basic supplies for a mat board collagraph are scrap pieces of matboard (you can usually get them at a local frame shop) and some gloss medium and varnish to seal your plate.

What if You Lost it All?

I have friends who lost everything in this fire. Homes, cars, mementos, jewelry, photo albums, and computers.

Two artist friends lost their homes *and* their studios, and everything they’ve created over a lifetime, including decades of collected work from other artists. 

A musician friend lost his studio, and every instrument he’s played since he was a boy. Hearing this, I walked into my perfectly small and intact studio, and looked at my very-loved art supplies.

How would I feel if my art-making space was burned in a fire? Would I think about how often I used them to create beauty? You bet I would. And if I lost everything I’d made in a fire, I think I’d cry a lot, and grieve hard, and then I’d reach for solace in the knowledge that I used that room, and those supplies, and I made things.

That’s the piece that remains a constant in a catastrophic loss of property. The artist is still creative, and you get to take that with you when starting anew.

thomas fire wildlife
My friend Jeff Taylor has been diligent to keep fresh water in his yard for birds and wildlife displaced by 420 square miles of fire. He snapped this beautiful photo of honey bees coming in for a drink.

Can’t Lives on Won’t Street

Life is short, the world is wide, and crap beyond our control happens when we’re not ready for it.

This suggests that we should create, in the very moment a make-something urge percolates up. 

Block all verbal barriers, and mental brain games that conspire to stop your deliberate reach for a sketchbook and pencil. 

We can make stuff, and we will make stuff, and we should make stuff – and who cares how it comes out.

In the scheme of things, making art is pure, sublime, easy pleasure. Let’s not sully that with layers of unnecessary complexity when the world has plenty of bigger, sadder, more fearful things to ponder.

Take refuge in the quiet of your art-making.  Be the boss of those audio-cycles in your head saying you can’t, or you’re too rusty, or you lack skills. Press the mute button, and draw something.

color choices in art making
Color influences from items in the studio: soft gray from a hammered tin horse figurine, and the aqua blue-green of an old glass insulator

Digging Deep for the Important Stuff

Thanks for listening to my rant. I really needed this talk with myself.

The close call of the Thomas Fire has been a lesson in keeping my eyes on the important stuff, and avoiding the luxury of unnecessary ego entanglements related to artistic performance.

Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.  Above the noise in your head, Make Something.

Thanks for hanging out with me, and letting me vent. I’ll see you in the next post –


P.S. You can subscribe to get each blog post via email by signing up here.

Art Quote

I still encourage anyone who feels at all compelled to write to do so. I just try to warn people who hope to get published that publication is not all it’s cracked up to be. But writing is. Writing has so much to give, so much to teach, so many surprises. That thing you had to force yourself to do – the actual act of writing – turns out to be the best part. It’s like discovering that while you thought you needed the tea ceremony for the caffeine, what you really needed was the tea ceremony. The act of writing turns out to be its own reward.

Anne Lamott
which watercolor paper is best?
Click the rinse water to sign up for a free download of Watercolor Paper 101.  All about surfaces, sizing, weights and components.

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12 thoughts on “Collagraph of a Great Dane (and post fire coping)”

  1. Kathleen Fish

    I am very interested in printmaking techniques, including making collagraphs. I look forward to your e mails going over various prints that you do. Your artwork looks great and seeing your demos along with your tips and encouragement are motivating and inspirational for me and I’m sure for others too. Thank-you!

  2. Your paragraph under “Can’t lives on won’t street” begs to live on in my collection of Art and Creativity quotes. In fact, should be framed and hanging in my little art-making nook so I can re-read it when my motivation wanes. I am sharing those wonderful words with my group of “Creative Chicks”…Thank you (and that also goes for the video tutorial). I appreciate your “rants”….keep’em coming!

    1. Thanks for the feedback, my friend. Your compliments will be banked in my studio for days when I’m not sure what I’m writing about, or who I’m serving. I really appreciate the encouragement. 🙂 Happy creating with the chicks.

    1. Hi Tina! I’m glad your subjects and conclusions were cosmically aligned. And I’m not surprised one bit. 🙂 Have great conclusion to 2017, and a festive blast off to more art making in 2018.

  3. Susan Pickens

    There is on-going value of taking photos of creations as you do them and putting them on that little USB Flash Drive.
    Backed up my office work for years on Fridays and carried the copy home. Wondered if it was worth while and then came the flood of 2007. I held my breath while downloading the little stick into my home computer and there was everything, just as I had finished it on Friday. Went a long way to saving the company. Beside the memories, you have proof and a listing for the insurance company. So glad that you are safe and are there for your less fortunate neighbors. Have the best holiday that you can and look forward to a better New Year. May the Lord’s peace be with you.

    1. Thank you, Susan. And good job on saving all your data on a thumb drive. It’s amazing how a little bit of time put into backing up can save us from so much heartache and losses, etc. The first thing we grabbed during the evacuation was our back up array. I wish you the same good fortune in the new year. 🙂

  4. Belinda – so glad to hear that you and your home are ok. Boy, the ash that collects inside means that you are breathing bad stuff inside as well as outside.

    1. Thanks, Bonnie. We’ve been wearing respirators inside and out, until this week, since I’ve been wet-wiping the entire house and washing all the linens, rugs and bedding regularly to clear the ash. It’s getting better. Outdoors will still take time to clean up, but we’re hopeful for light winds and a sprinkle of rain (but not too much rain) soon. 🙂

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