Faith and the Fiddler


Faith and the Fiddler 40hx30w oil

The concept for this painting started as an entry to a Norman Rockwell exhibit. Entrants were asked to submit works based on Rockwell’s Four Freedoms paintings. My concept for “Freedom of Worship” was the image of a fiddler dressed in the Stars and Stripes standing in front of a quilt with symbols of religions of the world. I turned in a concept of the poster version of my painting, (which I will post at the end of this article). I got a rejection notice from the Norman Rockwell Museum… but that didn’t stop me.

I will be displaying the working process of the painting in this post. Let’s get started! Below is the embryonic version I turned into the competition. Since then I’ve had time to think…


What does a fiddler and fiddle look like? What does my character wear? I need to feed my head with images. Here are a few.


Here’s Johnny!

I got inspiration for the fiddler from the song, “The Devil Went Down to Georgia,” by Charlie Daniels. It is a song about a fiddler, Johnny, who out plays the devil in a fiddle contest. The wager is a golden fiddle. Johnny wins the fiddle and shoo’s the devil away. The song is the eternal struggle of good against evil with great fiddling! (When I think about where his golden fiddle came from, it would be unwise for Johnny to play it.) The figure in my painting isn’t anyone in the song. He is playing for a higher purpose, though.


Drawing on canvas using charcoal stick.

“Playing Fiddle”

Here are some ideas I played with in fiddle/music symbolism. Some form of music or chanting is often used during worship. There can be a golden light as a symbol of spirit. Mostly, I liked the idea of the golden fiddle and the golden rule. All religions have some sort of, “treat other’s as you want to be treated” saying.


The “logo design” for Golden Rule from my sketchbook.

The writing on the wall …

The fiddler stands in front of a brick wall with the words “Golden Rule” painted on it. Perhaps one needs to practice the Golden Rule to get it right, like practicing a beautiful instrument. Consider the “Golden Rule” to be all inclusive … practice it on people different from yourself.

Here are a few thoughts about brick walls: To come up against a brick wall is to encounter an obstacle or difficult problem/ Unsuccessful conversations result in feeling like one is speaking to a brick wall/ A wall divides/ Beautiful music can be heard beyond walls. I’m sure you can think of more…


This image shows the underpainting. When looking at my reference photos, I saw a lot of blue in the bricks, so that’s where I started. 

It’s an American quilt

I wanted to illustrate that the United States is a country with many religions. The first idea I had was placing the fiddler in front of a church with a stained glass window with religious symbols. I liked the stained glass idea but felt that was too European. The idea of bricks for the church wall stayed, but the glass was replaced with a quilt. I felt that it was more American and that the concept of “Freedom of Worship” was woven into the “fabric” of our country.


Work in progress with props.

Speaking of fabric, here are a few “materials” I either bought, had or created for visual reference. It is so much easier for me to actually look at things rather than make them up. I bought the hat on-line – it’s a beautifully crafted hat made of straw. There was no way I was going to find the shirt from my reference photos and I didn’t want to duplicate it. So, I bought a shirt at the Goodwill and improvised using my limited sewing skills. I couldn’t find material with the stars I wanted, but found a blue field with dots I could place stars. The quilt behind the painting was from my linen closet and helped me look at the dimensionality of a quilt.

First Amendment Serving Souls


To make my point about worship and the First Amendment, I needed it in my painting. I decided that my fiddle player needed to be wearing a dive bar t-shirt – perhaps one he’s played in? I created a logo design – which went through many transitions! I drew the design onto my fiddler’s t-shirt, making it part of the center of my composition.

Holy Hootenanny!

Here’s my poster! As part of my “Circus Real Surreal” series, I’ve been creating posters to hang with or independent of my paintings.

Now go forth and practice the Golden Rule!



Creating a Surreal Frame



In April 2017 I plan to exhibit my painting and poster series together in a local coffee shop. The painting and corresponding poster will be hung side by side. The paintings have no frame, but the posters need some sort of support. I decided that just framing the posters in a black gallery frame was ok, but didn’t push the idea of the circus further. Where’s the fun in that??? A surreal poster demands a surreal frame.


Doodling Frames


To get an idea for the frame I got reference images and began to draw some fancy frames. I began to edit down the design because the decorative frames are very busy and would take away from the poster. This creative process took quite a while to shape up. Other factors where, basically, how much work did I want to put into each custom frame, cost per frame and building four of them in a relatively fast manner.


The frame design got pared down to decorative elements on the top and bottom of the poster frame. To get a more surreal feel, frame elements would be floating in pieces around the poster. I liked the look of the poster popping out of the frame like a box frame, so the decorative elements and their base would be applied to the back of the existing frame. Also, the frame elements would be drawn and scanned in my computer and manipulated in Photoshop. Then the pieces would be glued onto foamcore and cut out – which also called for shapes that were not too complex. I’m pretty skilled with an exacto blade, but remember, I need to make four frames for the show.

One order of Surreal plus Time Management, hold the melting clocks please.

Basic wooden 20h x 16w frame with print about to become “surrealized.”


I purchased black foamcore that I found conveniently precut to fit under my 20×16 frames. (Lucky me.) I centered the wooden 20×16 frame onto the foamcore backing and marked where it fit. The foam core was still a big rectangle, so I curved out the top and bottom corners to soften the black portion of the frame. Next I needed some decoration.


I used Mod Podge glue to adhere my printed frame pieces to the foamcore. Use a thick, good quality printer paper. I used Epson matte photo paper. It didn’t buckle with the glue. Then I put a coat of Mod Podge on top after my pieces dried to add a varnished look. Then I cut them out and attached them to the foamcore. I used both double stick tape and a liquid glue. I don’t care for things slipping out of place and the double stick tape stays put instantly, but I feel that the liquid glue makes a better permanent bond. When I glued the pieces down, I had the frame sitting in place on top of the foamcore so there was no mistake about the fit.

Here is the front without the frame.



I laid the framed print on its face and placed the foamcore surreal frame on top of it and stapled it down. Then I put tape on top of the staples so that they wouldn’t scratch my wood frames when they are stacked. Note that I cut out portions out of the back of the foamcore. I needed to do this so I could see where the frame was in order to staple the foamcore to the back of the frame.


Presenting: The finished surreal frame…. Ta Da!!!





Truth and Deception Circus Poster


Have You Read the News Today?

News could be real. News could be fake. Facts could be facts or they can be alternative facts. I’ve made none of this up, creative as I am.

The Whole Truth and Nothing But the Truth.

This poster is based on a painting of the same name. If you would like to read about the oil painting, click on my blog post “Truth and Deception.” I was playing with the idea that everyone has their own version of the truth. The doves are metaphor for this idea. In this poster, I have steered towards the prickly problems of politics. (Notice cactus in the background of image.) However, finding out the truth is part of our personal lives and not limited to the political circus of today.





Untamed Pharmaceuticals Poster


The Artwork

This is a poster from my oil painting of the same name. If you scroll down to my previous post about the painting, you will notice I have flattened out the illustration and changed some colors in it to be brighter for a more commercial look.

The Message

The poster series is called “Circus Real Surreal.” Over the years I have developed several paintings and posters that are designed to tell history using imagery, symbolism, color and words.

Stay tuned for more amazing historical facts from the 21st Century!circuslogowords

Untamed Pharmaceuticals


“Untamed Pharmaceuticals” 40hx30w oil

My post will be a not so brief explanation of how I composed the oil painting. Included are details or the painting and working drawings. I used the image of a tiger tamer, as a metaphor for battling a pharmaceutical industry that is guilty of predatory pricing and releasing highly addictive prescription drugs to the public. To turn the metaphor idea into a painting, I used a live drawing from a model, a study of a man in a Reuben’s painting, photo references, poetry, an oil study from life set up in my studio, and visual influences from an art exhibit I saw on Samoan tattoos.

The Man with the Tiger Tattoo

I chose this drawing from a live model to start thumbnails. His arm and hand on the green towel seemed strong visually to me.


I worked out various compositions with a tamer and whole tigers. They were too literal. One day I was doodling and thinking, tiger and tail and I came up with the tiger balloon in my sketchbook.


My sketchbook ideas morphed into the composition in the painting. I sized out my canvas based on the proportions of my preparatory sketch (below – notice it is a mess of cut out tracing paper ideas) and put down the drawing in charcoal on the canvas.


The life drawing has no detail on the man’s face. I knew I wanted him to have red hair (the model had reddish blonde hair) and some sideburn chops or some facial hair to make him tiger-like. I had just gotten a book on Rubens at a library book sale and found the head I was seeking, whiskers and all. Below is a study from my sketchbook from a painting called “The Four Philosophers” by Peter Paul Rubens. The profile if the man in my painting is more tiger-like.


If you’ve been reading my posts, I often mention that coincidence and me are pals. I couldn’t quite figure out the outfit of my tamer. I had an idea but couldn’t find reference photos. Oddly enough, I found references for the shirt, vest and armband in photos from an article about a drummer in my husband’s Modern Drummer magazine!

An exhibit I saw at the Japanese American National Museum in downtown Los Angeles, CA, influenced the tattoo design. There were beautiful photographs the current day people of Samoa posing to show their tattoos. They were very intricate and also seemed in harmony with the shape of the body and underlying musculature. I hoped to emulate some of that in my tamer’s tattoo.


The purple teardrop earring is a memorial to singer and entertainer, Prince, who was battling chronic pain and became a victim of an accidental drug overdose.


Fearful Symmetry

“The Tyger”, by William Blake is the poem that inspired the artwork on the box. I had a good time arranging the words to look like an old poster. Poems are cool.


While working on the painting, I kept seeing tigers everywhere. Putting gas in my car, there is a small sticker of a tiger on the pump. Going to the post office, the new stamps are of wild animals, the featured one is a tiger. The background prop of a T.V. show I’m watching is a tiger poster. The most abstract tiger was an orange wine glass with tiger stripes at its base that was in the clearance section of a plant/ gift store I go to. Just the other day, (now that I’m done with the painting, but writing about it) I checked out a book from the library about a writer and flip to a photo of him standing next to a fake tiger. So far, I haven’t actually seen a tiger balloon, but you never know.


Predatory pricing, ballooning costs, holding a tiger by the tail, an addiction sneaking up on a person… images and phrasing that came to mind while painting.

The Symbolism of Water

First, I had to hunt for the right pitcher at my local thrift stores. When I got a pleasing “circus-like” pitcher (The decorations were a surprise, really) I set it up with the glass in my studio. It is way easier to paint what is in front of me, than to make things up.


To me the water has a double meaning: A symbol of purity or cleansing and a vehicle by which one takes to swallow dangerous prescription drugs. I guess that leaves the glass half full or half empty depending on your perception.

I’ve written enough, time for you to ponder. Maybe take an action. Vote. Read poems. Write letters. Create art. Hold a Tiger to your heart.




“Technology’s Wild Ride”


“Technology’s Wild Ride” • oil • 40hx30w

My painting covers a variety of ideas about the growth of technology in the 21st century. The characters and their props in this painting explore the gadgetry and the social effects of Technology’s Wild Ride.

WARNING: This ride progresses at an alarming rate, if you choose to take the “chicken exit”, here is a playlist with songs that inspired the painting. For fun, via the technology of your choice, you can listen to it instead of reading this post…

  1. Wikipedia: The song “TVC-15” by David Bowie
  2. YouTube: “Nellie the Elephant” by the Toy Dolls
  3. Download the song, “Jungle Boogie” by Kool and the Gang

Ok, for those brave enough to buckle up, hold on to your hats!

Player 1

My son, who is our family computer expert, posed for this image. He put up with his mom and wore the paper hat I folded up from the Business section of the paper. The watch and phone are, as you know, the new normal. While thinking up the concept, I read an article in Time magazine about virtual reality. This gave me the idea that it would be funny to take a selfie, while wearing the featured prototype glasses.


His t-shirt references an old Pong game. The monitors were deep blue/black. The game was rendered in white graphics. As a kid who played Pong, I had the choice of being Player 1 or Player 2 at the start of the game. The competition to be Player 1 in the world of Technology and Business is fierce. In fact, it’s a jungle out there. (Go to Playlist, choose “Jungle Boogie”)

Nellie the Elephant

I was playing with the idea that Technology is Big. And I have also been working on a digital series of my paintings called, “Circus Real Surreal”, which is a transformation of my oil paintings into circus posters. Here is what I asked myself:

Q: What is big and involved in a circus past or present?

A: Elephants. (Note: No virtual elephants were harmed in the creation of this painting.)

As a kid, I was also listening to music while playing video games. One such song, circa 1980, was called, “Nellie the Elephant” by the Toy Dolls. It is based on a British nursery song about an intelligent circus elephant who takes the crowd by storm and then runs away from the circus. I feel that technology changes at an almost runaway rate! (Go to Playlist, choose “Nellie the Elephant”)

Nellie’s Bling and Things

I wanted Nellie to visually communicate aspects of technology. The first idea I had was to compose Nellie with circuits. Circuits are quite mesmerizing to look at. When I researched Asian elephants I found that elephants are sometimes decorated with chalk for ceremonies in India. There are some beautiful designs and extravagantly colorful elephants to behold in a Google search. This was my inspiration for applying the circuits on Nellie. She also sports a joystick and a silicon chip on her headdress.


Pixelonmic Transitions: From Bowie to Binary

Early on in the painting process I decided to pixelate the tip of Nellie’s trunk. Pixels are something a large part of the population is looking at daily. They are a big part of our lives, and communication. A visual transmission can influence society to action.

During the creation of this painting singer/songwriter David Bowie passed away. Through the internet I was able to re-connect with some of his songs I had remembered. One song I always liked was “TVC-15”. I was unclear on the meaning and looked it up. The song plays with the idea that the singer’s girlfriend has jumped into his TV set (the model being the TVC-15) and he is wondering if he should go in and get her. Perfect!

The chorus is: Transition, Transmission. I thought the song and words were appropriate for the Technology age. The word “Transition” appears in my painting written in binary code on the underside of Nellie’s trunk. (Go to Playlist, choose “TVC-15”)

Infophilic Transmissions: Privacy Settings


The ID tag and the elephant wrinkle/ large finger print behind it are a reference to the on going question of who has access to your information. During the creation of this painting, national security vs. consumer privacy became a very big issue.

Technology has far reaching effects on society. Symbolically, I felt that the leaves with their radiating pattern and the umbrella, which also radiates out was an abstract way to transmit that feeling to you.

I hope you enjoyed “Technology’s Wild Ride.” It is now safe to unbuckle your seat belt and exit this screen.