Friday, December 19, 2014

Asshats and Liabilities

Every so often a word comes into popular usage that is just so appealing in its ability to describe or the sound it makes when it rolls off the tongue or even the way it flows through one's fingers and onto page or keyboard, it becomes a new favorite.

This is true of the word asshat.

I confess that, as much as I believe in the free use of language as art, I would never want to censor the use of profanity or obscenity, as I believe that the judicious sprinkling of a few, well-chosen swear words over the vast surface area of one's body of verbal work can add interest, emphasis, and even style, upon occasion.

Think about it.  Depending on who a person is and her/his position, the well-chosen expletive can serve a beneficial conversational purpose.  Take David Letterman's occasional "Damn" or "for God's sake".  It punctuates and draws attention in the same way that a pinch of cayenne pepper makes a difference in a vegetable dish.  When we say "Amanda Fucking Palmer" we mean that Amanda Palmer is a seriously iconic performer and musician.

Yet, profanity and obscenity are often overdone and coarsened. When every other adjective is a four-letter word (I can think of many that exceed four letters, but you get the idea) the ability to season the conversation is lost.  The objectionable no longer shocks or exclaims.  It blends in and is lost; moreover the user loses credibility since the ability to use vocabulary is one of the measures by which we tend to pay attention to a speaker.  If language is saturated with profanity, meaning is diluted.

We suffer as the speaker loses credibility.

I do not employ profanity lightly nor do I enjoy the use of profanity as the major component of others' vocabulary.  I like my swearing concise and relevant.

Hence my attachment to asshat, implying, as it does, that someone's chapeau might be more suited to his derriere than to his head.  It's more humorous than its more insulting parent noun, and begs the hearer to snicker knowingly.

It also sounds intriguingly similar to ASSETS, which we all know are things of value.  They're the opposite of liabilities, which are debts we owe.

I seriously hope that going into the new year that you have more assets than liabilities and that you can tell your assets from the asshats.  Keep those who are definite assets close to your heart, and cast the asshats as far from you as you can.  Peace and prosperity to you and yours!

Thursday, December 18, 2014

A Strong Finish and Promising New Beginnings

In the olden days back when I still served the Presbyterian Church, (USA) as a religious educator, more than once I got very bogged down in tasks of varying levels of urgency.  The paradox often was that something could be urgent without being particularly important.  Sometimes, too, tasks could be clearly of high importance without seeming urgent in any way.

Every job has those urgency vs. importance issues.  Every job, likewise, has its significance issues, which sound like they might be the same as importance, but they're really not.  Something can be grandly important in the overall scheme of things without having much personal significance to the one who is charged with its execution.

Then there are those things we do because we simply must do them.  Into this category of neutral necessaries fall things like paying the insurance premium, changing the furnace filters, and checking the oil in the car.  They're not important in terms of achieving our long-term goals, and unless they're overdue they don't get to be urgent, and unless checking your oil really floats your boat, they're hardly significant.  Yet a life is made up of necessaries.  (Try not doing them for a year and see what happens)

I once discovered that my entire existence was made up of the urgent, the important, the significant, and the necessary.  What was it that was missing?

It turns out that what was missing was the joyful.  Those tasks or activities which one does which go beyond being simply significant in a life...the things that make you soar, the things that stir passion!

For several months I tried and refined an exercise to balance out those area of my schedule that were devoted to the urgent, the important, the significant, the necessary, and the joyful.  I used a very large (11"x14") calendar for a whole year.  In each day's box, I wrote appointments, tasks, office hours, visits with students and their families, my own personal time, and time for my art and personal spiritual development.  I also included uncommitted time each day to allow for the urgent, which don't often tell us ahead of time when they're going to confront us.

Then, I took highlighters and color-coded my tasks according to the areas they fell into.  Work or office hours were orange.  Personal time for family, recreation, and friends was green.  Art was hot pink, my favorite!  You get the idea.

After a couple of months I got used to seeing at a glance where I was over-committed, where I might need to pull back, or where I could add in some fun.  It was also quite apparent that I was liable to the same threats as so many of my families, both parents and youngsters...too much scheduled time, not enough play!  Sometimes I had a whole week devoid of pink or green.  Often I had more orange on my pages than Cal-Trans has on our highways!

This year, my prayer for this quiet winter solstice and holiday season is that we each can find the space and quiet for the joyful, for the significant.  I hope we can ratchet down the urgency penning us in on seemingly every side, and start the new year with enough space built into our lives that we will be strong together as we face its challenges and opportunities together.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Speaking of Strong...

I don't often find content that I think is worth sharing on my blog, but this article from  ANEA BOGUE, B.ED., M.A. is worth the read, especially as we think about the new year.  Hope you enjoy!

Let me know what you think.  The article is here:

Monday, December 1, 2014

A Stronger You

Do you think about strength?  What characterizes strength for you?  Is it toned muscles?  Is it resilience and the ability to rebound from exertion?  Could it possibly be flexibility and the capacity to adapt to new challenges?

Today in my morning pages, I noted that three times in the last two days my eye has been drawn to articles about strength.  They had clickworthy titles like "15 Things Strong People NEVER Do", "This Is How You Can Become a Stronger Version of Yourself", or "15 Things Strong People ALWAYS Do".

Apparently my inner wimpiness has somehow connected with the algorithms of the internets and called this kind of self-improvement material to my laptop.  It remains a matter or mystery to me how it got here, but this I know:

Sooner or later we all confront losing strength.

Muscle mass shrinks with aging.  Mental processes lag a little.  Joints wear. We fear every instance of absent-mindedness.  Even our ability to roll with the punches can flag as we become less adaptive to changing conditions.  (More set in my ways, I am.  I know, I know.  I still play CD's)

It is now December 1st, one month away from 15 years into the new century.  15 years ago, what were you doing?  Were you freaking out that your computer, your digital watch, your flip-top cell phone would crash?  (It's okay, everyone did, because Y2K)  Fin du siecle stuff compounded by not enough digits in everyone's computers.

I recall having very different ideas back then about living life.  I had not yet completed the Artist's Way.  I was still living in Salt Lake City, working for the Presbyterian Church and studying at seminary.  I was single, raising my two sons.  I lived 20 minutes from my mother.  I worked out at the fitness center 5 minutes from my house.

Except for the fact that I was broke all the time, worked about 50 hours a week, didn't have an art practice, and was deeply lonely, life was just fine.

As we're staring down the barrel of 2015, I recall how strong and invincible it felt to be me back then. Funny the difference a mere 15 years can make!

I realize that, as 2015 comes closer, I am redefining strength for myself and reevaluating its significance as I plan and imagine how I want to move through and experience the coming years.

When stripped down to its muscular essence, being strong seems more about wisdom, health, and adaptability than about independence, power, or achieving goals.  It seems that the process in which one engages, the decisions one takes, and the relationships one cultivates have a lot to do with it too.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Flooding the Streets with Art

This little 10"x8" acrylic painting is my contribution to the second annual "Flood the Streets with Art" event, begun in response to the materialism and craziness that is typically Black Friday.  Started and organized by Wisconsin artist, Scott Wong, the premise is simple:  Artists everywhere are invited to make art and release it somewhere in public where it is likely to be found and claimed by someone.

For FREE.  Totally.  For.  FREE.

There is no hidden cost.  It's all about making the world a little bit more loving, a little less materialistic, and a bit less focused on acquiring yet more STUFF the day after we have just offered our thanks for the stuff we already own.

"Windowbox with Flowers" was left in Sacramento near the campus of City College (Freeport and Sutterville) and I hope that whoever finds it will let me know and give it a good home.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

RAW (and looking it)

This is how I look in color.
Shameless self-promotion is how self-employed (free-lance) artists make a living.

Sometimes it's by word of mouth, which is great if your friends and collectors like you and your work and refer you to their friends.  Then your reputation grows.

Hopefully, you don't often have to stick your face into someone's video camera and give an artist's statement.  After all, next to a colonoscopy prep, an artist's statement is just about the most dreaded thing an artist has to do.

Writing one is bad enough.  For an artist, even a self-avowed extrovert like me, doing a video of one is, well...When's my next colonoscopy?

I did one, the video artist's statement, not the colonoscopy, in August when I was in a pop-up art show called RAW Natural Born Artists at the Ace of Spades nightclub.  The show was just too much fun and I loved it, but as part of the whole experience, they had a videographer do an interview with each artist.

They used the same kinds of questions that you hope you answered on your artist's statement.


They shot in grainy black and white.


They shot the art pretty darn well, considering it was in a night club.

Thank God.

That's when I realized it was all about the work, not all about me, despite my embarrassment about my chubby cheeks and double chins.  It's about the WORK.  The ART.  And I hope that's what comes through, despite my self-conscious stumbling over my own tongue.

It's the WORK.  And I'm proud of it, and I'm shamelessly promoting it, and you can see the video if you want to.

Just remember I look so much better in do the paintings!

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Staring at My Feet (Pencil Sketch)
Lest it be believed that all I've been doing this summer is gazing at my toes, here I am on the page.  I haven't blogged since June 20, so a person might be forgiven for thinking I've been loafing all summer long.

Well, actually, if you don't count all the activity included in being part of a co-op gallery/studio, if you don't count curating an art show, if you don't count teaching painting lessons, if you don't count hosting openings/art walks/studio tours, if you don't count on-site painting demo's.....well, it was all loafing.

Of course, there was the paperwork side of things and there was also working at developing my own figure drawing/painting capabilities.  I still had to manage my Etsy shop and my print-to-order site at Fine Art America.

I had two lovely trips with my long-suffering spouse, who somehow got me to squeeze out of town while the plates were spinning without me. Now I'm busy art-journaling said summer activities with spouse.  Whew.

Now it's fall, and with the change of season comes a moment in time to think about fall classes, showing in other venues than the co-op gallery/studio (I made the decision not to renew my lease, so as to re-direct energies elsewhere) and teaching in my home studio.  I'm also trying on for size a couple of things I've longed to do:  mural-painting, for one...and hosting a "paint-and-sip" session at a restaurant here in Davis.

I also look forward to reconvening my Artists Way group, which meets in my home on the first and third Monday afternoons of the month (contact me if you're local and interested) as it's such a nourishing experience!  The other thing that will be really slick will be to try my hand at the September Painting-a-Day challenge and see if I can crank out 30 paintings in a month...and have them not be junk.  We'll see!

Then I plan to take time off over the holidays, to enjoy family and down time and make plans for the new year to come.  Because, by then I can well imagine I'll need to really spend some time just string at my feet.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Create Art. Teach Art. Release Art Into the Wild.

It is getting to be one of those hot, dusty, Davis Friday afternoons.  This being a University town the weekend after graduation exercises, the pace of activity has ratcheted down somewhat since last week.  Most of the parents and out-of-town guests have departed, many with their exhausted but proud and happy students in tow.  Since we host the most well-known agricultural school on the Pacific Rim, we get to see families from all over the globe.  We draw from all parts of Asia, Africa, and Europe.

Many students stay over the summer months, and those who do are taking a break.  I see co-eds in summer dresses strolling downtown in two's and three's as they shop or wander over to the Tea List behind our studio for afternoon refreshment.  With the break, they have time to relax and linger.  The owner, Nahid, has fresh lilies and white linen tablecloths on her patio tables.  It's quite elegant in the cool, shady courtyard.

I'm looking forward to these next two months of summer, to the summer classes I'm teaching and the social atmosphere of people coming together to make art.  My own belief in the spiritual connection to art dictates that art must in some way be renewing and refreshing to the spirit.  I know from experience and I have had many folks tell me that, through the practice of art, they are more in touch with their own soul.  It is true.

Artmaking is a summer vacation for a busy person's soul.  I am happy to be your travel agent!  Why not join
me on 3rd and 4th Fridays throughout the summer* for a relaxing time of painting and convivial company at Art-is-Davis, 222 D Street, Davis, CA.  I'm here with all the materials you need, 6:00 to 9:00 pm.  Bring a snack and your favorite beverage, and a friend!  Make the Davis summer a bit less hot and dusty.

*Except Aug. 22nd.  Price: $30 per person; No Reservations Required                                                                                                              

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

There is generally plenty of road dust on the highway of a person's spiritual journey.  Among many other things, one makes abbreviated fits and starts in directions off of the highway from time to time and, while they can be instructive and reveal unexpected blessings, they also can lead to dead ends.  In such cases, one sometimes finds oneself backing up over deeply rutted one-way tracks in search of the road that leads back to the highway.  Arriving coughing and scratchy-eyed back on track, one consults the GPS and tries again.

Over the span of my lifetime of seeking spiritual and creative meaning, which to me are ever and inexorably connected, there have been any number of really interesting but not always healthy side roads.  One detour took me down the path of an oddly toxic and narrow church which was sadly poisoned by its insistence upon independence from its mainline parent, becoming exclusionary and fearful as it resisted the influence of the greater denominational connection.

A tough thing about toxic churches is that, superficially at least, they appear to be all about loving care and inclusion and until one gets under the surface it's hard to tell whether they are truly welcoming to all.  They might appear to treat all comers equally but exclude groups such as those who are financially disadvantaged, those who are of other cultures, or those who do not align politically with the majority of the parishioners.

I was employed by such a church for the last two years of my professional ministry and the message I received was harmful and not-so-subtle.  I wasn't of the majority political view, I wasn't conservative enough, I wasn't a Biblical literalist, and I wasn't welcome.

When I left I was confused, angry, and in terrible spiritual pain.  The body of Christ is supposed to embrace, not reject.  The church is supposed to accept a human with all their fallibility and least, that's what the handbook, the New Testament, says.  Why did it matter whom I'd voted for in the last election?  What difference did it make whether I didn't agree with the war in Iraq?  And, on a spiritual note, why would I assert things I could not justify or believe?

I learned that backing down the dusty road and bouncing over the bumps and through the ruts would take some doing.  Recovery from a church-bruising is a hard thing, and must be intentionally worked at in order to be successful.  I can't even now say that my recovery is complete, but here are some things I know.

The gifts of God's love and acceptance become manifest first through loving and accepting people, no matter what church (or no church at all) is involved. If a person is a follower of Jesus, chances are that deep down where it matters most, they don't give a flying rip whom you voted for in the last election.

When you are around such people, peacefulness and cooperation tend to abound.  Folks actively seek out ways to find consensus rather than conflict.  They support one another's creativity and expression, since they are not threatened.  Patience, gentleness, joy, and sharing have a place in interactions and decisions.  They become the peaceful community that people can become when they are operating at their best.

I had experienced the Walk to Emmaus, the Protestant version of the Catholic Cursillo retreat, about twenty years ago while still living in Salt Lake City,  and had all but forgotten that particular off-ramp on the highway of my spiritual journey.  This past weekend, I once again had the deep joy and privilege of being a part of the Emmaus weekend pilgrimage.  The work was challenging, the hours were very long, and the whole immersion stretched me.  BUT, what a healing stretching, just like yoga and massage and healing touch all rolled into one, happening in my brain and heart and soul.

It was the culmination of the last five years' intentional spiritual recovery work, as a member of an accepting and reconciling congregation of welcoming people, so many of whom have become dear and deep friends.  It was like standing in the middle of the spring at Lourdes and being bathed in sunlight and cool water all at once.  It was new friends and deepening established friendships.  It was being supported and being privileged to lovingly support others.

And there was beauty.  I learned that providing and creating beauty truly is a way of loving out loud, something I have long suspected. It is true,I know undeniably, that being the purveyor of that which is beautiful is a valid and honorable and sometimes even a sacred thing to be.  Artists are perhaps the most sensitive of all souls to ugliness and squalor, and to the wretchedness that eats the soul with loneliness when denied the ability to create beauty.

What a miraculous thing it is to come back onto the highway which leads to home, healthy and renewed!
When I left I didn't know what this particular 3-day sojourn would reveal or dredge up or celebrate, but I am grateful to have found  love, laughter, song, tears, and joy on the Walk to Emmaus.  Maybe it's having found friends; maybe it's having found that One Friend on the road.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

On Retreat

I am on a spiritual retreat to renew and refresh myself through the the work of building community.  I may have much to write after the retreat, or I may have nothing.  We shall see.  In the meantime, be thoughtful.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Lest you think I've been lying around doing nothing, I just thought I'd write a line or two summarizing what's been happening over the last few weeks.  Far from kicking back with my paws over my eyes, I've dug in deep to my art practice. Be careful what you pray for, because sometimes the Universe just serves it up, and keeps on giving.  I'm astounded.  It's an embarrassment of riches, and here are the high spots:

Art is Davis  is the new art cooperative downtown Davis, located at 222 D Street, between the Mustard Seed restaurant and the Pence Gallery.  It was started the end of last summer by Seana Burke and Marieke DeWaard.  They were joined in the co-op by Joanne Andresen and Jan Castle Walker.  I'm excited to say I now have studio space in the gallery along with these very talented artists.  My first Davis Art About in the gallery is THIS FRIDAY, March 14th.  And, there's more...

Beginning on Friday, March 21, I am offering a weekly Friday evening Painting for Relaxation series.  This will include instruction in acrylic painting at whatever level the student is, including never having picked up a paintbrush.  Emphasis will be on gaining confidence and just letting go and inviting the creative process to take hold.  All materials are provided, including an encouraging environment.  I see it as a time to kick back, enjoy music and a beverage, and let the stresses of the work week melt away.

Also, beginning on Sunday, April 6, Seana Burke and I will offer the perfect introduction to plein aire art.  It's Spring Sketching and Painting, and will take the student from the basics of sketching here in town using our charming Davis downtown, building skills week-by-week until you can execute an acrylic painting from a site you've sketched.  Painting materials are provided.  The class will meet for 4 sessions.

I'll also be in the gallery several times a week if you just want to stop by and say hi.  Check in with me here, on Facebook at Quicksilver Art and Spirit,,on e-mail at, or on Twitter @Quicksilver1953.

Yes, I'm still teaching Grumbacher Art classes at Michaels, 2175 Bronze Star Drive, Woodland CA where fun new children's curriculum has been added to the popular adult beginners and intermediate classes.  I will continue to teach every Wednesday afternoon (4:00 pm) and evening (6:30 pm) and several weekend days including some Saturdays.  My schedule will be posted on Facebook, on my art page, Quicksilver Art and Spirit..  You can also look for these classes on

I'm still hosting Sketch Sunday Davis at Monticello Seasonal Cuisine on the second Sunday morning each month.  It's a refreshing time of brunch with fresh, local food and live music.  The art and food are both local, and the sketches done on site are available at affordable prices.

Lastly, there are the things I am grateful to be able to do to feed my with my family and friends, school and my unstoppable Artist's Way group of creative traveling companions.

Whew!  I think I'll follow Brodie's example and stretch out with my paws over my eyes.  Daylight savings started today and I have a feeling I'll be up early tomorrow!

Thursday, February 6, 2014

It's the Scopes Monkey Trial of Our Century, and the Century Ain't Even That Old Yet

Until I read this article I had thought it was all right to totally ignore this debate.  After all, in my mind there is no inconsistency in being Christian and also having a healthy respect for and belief in science.  In fact, I've been quipping lately that Bill Nye won because he made bow ties cool before Doctor Who said they were, and Ken Ham lost because his biggest clobber was to say "It's in the Bible" as if that made something a scientific fact.

Now I'm less comfortable as I wonder why we Christians think it's okay to dump the responsibility for defending our religion from crackpottery on the scientists.  This article does a good job of encouraging all Christians to think through how we tell our story in the context of the science which the vast majority embrace.
Maybe it's timely for the many of us who take the Bible seriously but not literally to include ways of talking about our beliefs in a way that communicates our wonder at the created, evolved world as well as our sense that what has been learned through millenia of scientific inquiry serves to expand our ideas about God, not diminish them.

I'm glad to have seen Elizabeth Stoker's story.  It's a long-ish read, but it's shorter than the Nye/Ham debate.  Photo Credit:  ABC News  

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Drawing New Life: A Civilized Way to Begin the New Year

It used to be that the practice of drawing was taught in schools, just as a natural part of education.  It was considered as natural, in fact, as reading, arithmetic, and writing.  Yet, most people I ask about Art (notice the capital A) in their lives usually respond by saying, “Oh, I don’t do Art.  I can’t draw.”  Sadly, this is often due to one of two reasons.  The first is that they have been the victims of judgmental educators who themselves may not have been compassionately or encouragingly taught, ending up therefore as demanding and rigid teachers unable to adapt to the unique needs of each learner.  This is a damn sad and sorry state, for every child has the innate desire to perceive and represent her/his world on paper with crayon or pencil. The second reason a person may think that s/he can’t draw is that they have never learned to see in such a way that they can represent their world on that paper with crayon or pencil in any kind of way that meets their own expectations, said expectations having been created by artists such as Durer, Rembrandt, or Leonardo.  Well.  There is hope for those suffering from both critical childhood instructors AND unrealistic expectations, for learning to draw is merely learning a skill set which is no more complicated or magical than cooking or auto mechanics.  Besides, incorporating drawing as a life skill is every bit as civilized as becoming a good reader or writer…and as uplifting as nourishing the spirit by the regular practice of prayer.

For an eight week period beginning February 4th, I will be teaching Drawing New Life…a fine
way to experience new life.  Read about it here:


WHEN: Tuesdays from 1-3 p.m. February 4, 11, 18, 25,
March 4, 11, 18, 25

In addition to drawing and sketching exercises inside, if weather permits we will go outside with sketchbooks to sketch from nature.

CLASS FEE IS $10 PER CLASS.  Basic materials provided.

Dori Marshall (530) 219-5221 or e-mail

YoloCANVAS is a program of Davis Community Meals