By total coincidence but perfectly timed for the segue from the  last couple of  week’s topics,  we attended a couple’s cocktails and canvas painting party last week.  Artistic expression and the fear of taking the leap has been facilitated by these social gatherings centered around painting and wine. You’ve heard of them, if not yet participated in one. This clever pairing has taken the country by storm. The model is to have an instructor teach a group of friends to copy a pre-selected subject and create their own interpretation on a canvas all the while losing inhibition by imbibing in a glass of wine or cocktail. Actually multiple glasses of wine and cocktails! The more the merrier! P1140371 - Copy

And merry it is. It’s fun and freeing. It’s creativity within boundaries but with enough encouragement and pretty much lack of judgment to produce some very successful finished products.  And this is where we found ourselves last Sunday afternoon. Operative word there, we. P1140384

Yes, I had attended several of these fun-filled events in the past – all women – always entertaining. But this was quite different as it was designed to be couples – husbands painting right alongside their more willing spouses were encouraged to let loose and copy the sunflowers.

Unlike other like-kinds of parties that I had attended, this gal started off each person’s canvas with a faint charcoal-transfer outline of the preliminary placement of the centers of the sunflowers. This was intended to get everyone started on the right track but also said loud and clear – this is what we are painting and deviating from the plan, changing the format or grouping was not encouraged. P1140376

That said, it was just fine that we all pursued the same clutch of gorgeously impressionistic floral explosions with bold brush strokes and colorful blotches of paint tying it all together for a happy theme. Most if not all of the men and perhaps a couple of the women had never tried their hand at painting. This might have been the first attempt at artistic expression that they had ever experienced. I know that was true for my husband!

The setting was fabulous in a private dining room of our local Greek restaurant with brilliant sunlight streaming in through the entire wall of west-facing windows illuminating large format photos of Grecian isles, ancient structures, classic white buildings with cascading brilliant pink bougainvillea set against the piercing blue sky and surrounding sea. A big screen TV mounted high in the far corner featured the very muddy Preakness followed by the Blues and San Jose dashing about on the ice. P1140374

But the attention soon turned to the canvases in front of each budding artist. Primed with cocktails, we donned aprons, selected our seats and set to work in front of our table-top easels. The paints are acrylic, water-based – easy to apply and also to clean-up during or after the session. . As the first splotches of color were applied, the comments began to fly around the room. From whining about how difficult it was to complaints about the blossoming results, the room became animated with commentary. P1140386

People began getting up and viewing others’ progress. Compliments and comparisons were a flurry as the instructor made her way around the room aiding those in duress and adding touches here and there. It was hysterical. Everyone was having a blast, creating their own interpretation of the offered subject and seeing it take shape before their very eyes by their very own hand and all the while amidst lively conversation and milling about the room. Seeing the finished products all so similar yet each very different is the marvel of this exercise.

One enthusiastic participant went out into the dining room and requested participation from restaurant patrons in the way of their leaving their tables and coming into the gallery of all of our redundant sunflowers and voting for their favorites – this added to the hysteria as they made their picks, voiced their critiques and the “artists” received their accolades. P1140402

Dinner followed taking this group of new-found friends to the dining room where everyone ordered from the menu and continued the convivial conversations into the evening. But I learned today that Don doesn’t care if he ever picks up a paintbrush again – he didn’t discover a hidden passion nor exceptional talent. He has no love for the process nor the results, but thoroughly enjoyed the party!!! Woo Hoo!! P1140406 - Copy





So for those who take the leap and delve into their artistic expression (reference last week’s pattisays…) – those who DO IT instead of critiquing “I could do that” –  are exploring vast depths of their awareness, sensitivity, and personal signature through a piece of art. But that same freedom of expression has been cultivated in society beginning with scribbles,  and the fundamentals of handwriting. From scribbles, scribble to basic block alphabetic B_after to the loop de loops of beginning cursive, ejercicio-preparatorio-2-federico-leon-de-la-vegathe lessons encourage and open doors to very personal and individualistic communication.

Most of us are all painfully aware that cursive is no longer taught in many schools. We are so seduced by technology that we are not selective about  what to save and what to advance beyond in this evolution. This conscious evolution may have a devastatingly regressive cost.

What is the danger?

The classic final question and answer in Beauty Pagents is something like “What is your wish for the world?” or  “What is the most critical issue facing  the world today?” Some might say “Global warming.” The truthful seemingly naive response we have heard for decades is “World Peace” or parodied version “Whirled Peas.” All kidding aside, this certainly is an important and noble quest – the root of which in today’s technology is “Nuclear War.” Yes, if we have nuclear wall everything else is moot. Education, clean air and water, whirled peas, nada. Well, shy nuclear war, another great issue facing our world today is the loss of the brain to hand expression via tool we take so for granted, handwriting.

Handwriting is a tool, yes. A tool to communicate private notes, grocery lists, love letters, instructions to the sitter and thank you notes for deeds so appreciated. Not to mention rough drafts for non-digital scratchings of the most intimate and possibly important historical communications on the planet.  A good friend is examining this troubling fact through his own artistic expression. Please visit the video Mind Your Calligraphy where Federico Leon de la Vega

explores the neurological results of this modern-day tragedy that has the potential to change civilization as we know it. Not to mention loss of certain very specific brain functions of human evolution!

The artist must train not only his eye, but his soul. Wassily Kandinsky

Without the basic form of  flowing handwriting – the motion with an ease of fluid, natural motion to convey one’s thoughts, ideas, emotions, needs, and desires, we erase a portion of the brain’s function. We erase the personal expression offered  and made available by the human connection between our thoughts and our hands – our tools. The control our hands to artistically pen calligraphy – unique to each individual  – is a priceless piece of evolution.

Returning to the artistic expression…Plein air painting and field studies for scientific research might be the last vestiges of our need to communicate and connect through nature. If not free from technology,  perhaps in concert with the tools of technology. Taking a digital camera, phone or tablet into the field while painting on-site or using the technology to process what is discovered and/or captured in the scientific field studies might be those last vestiges.

We know why, so let’s think about what influence we might have to continue the art of cursive. How to perpetuate the evolution of that which is oh so personal a form of expression and that has such a powerfully effective and essential connection to our brains.

Like Kandinsky observed – it is the soul of a person that is expressed through artistic media. And there is nothing more intimate than the seemingly simple connection through individualistically personal script. f4426e761a5ab09c179a23e22301df58-1000



Fear of entering the world of artistic expression. The pressure to perform. The pressure to create something worth the exercise. Many people will not take that leap and experiment with their creativity due to undue self-imposed pressures. Are YOU one of those people?

NIKE says “Just Do It!” What a simple yet powerfully motivating mantra!

All children are artists. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up. Pablo Picasso
picasso 20151105182332-picasso-art-artist-pablo

How many times have you witnessed or even thought this yourself? The common reaction to expressive, primitive art or art that deconstructs to simplicity is often “I could do that.” The style belies the complexity of the mind that created it – it belies the creativity of the artist behind the work – it belies the significance of the work.

Anyone who has tried to emulate a seemingly simple rendering of an image knows that it is not as easy as it seems. And the seemingly simple image is usually NOT that simple. Texture, color, detail or lack thereof, not to mention control of the composition, is deceptively difficult.

As Picasso explored his artistic imperatives, he experimented with what he knew as formal renderings ultimately deconstructed and manipulated to convey different perspectives and interpretations of his subject matter during different periods of his life experiences. Composition, color, manipulation of reality – artistic interpretation. Easy peasy? – not so easy.


But it is not about copying anyway. That has been touched on in my previous blog about The Art Forger. It is about the spontaneity or the planned conception and evolution of the original piece. The spark of creativity and ability to express it – in whatever medium.


Rachel Housman paints fanciful interpretations of landscapes of the southwest.

And it’s also not only about great, recognized art – but anything that is expressed by the individual – it is that connection that is the magic behind one’s view of the world. A reflection of their thoughts and experiences and desires.

I surmise that is it about allowing yourself the freedom to keep it simple. Not to over-work it. Like a child – as Picasso references…just keep it simple for starters. Distill whatever it is you want to express…pare it down.

Peggy Zuris painted passionate interpretations of the world around her. Bold colors and brushstrokes applied swiftly with a purpose. Michelle Chrisman sees the world with similarly bold strokes and exciting colors applied with great artistic expression.

A human being is essentially a spiritual eye. Whatever you really see, you are that. Rumi

Artistic expression is an extension of the person – it is a reflection of their being – who they are. And the great fun and joy derived from having a gallery and presenting various art pieces to the public is knowing the artists behind the work. Not to mention it is a happy place to be surrounded by joyful expressions that make you smile.


Virgin de Zapopan Acrylic on Canvvas Caresse Kruithof de Chavez



Where were YOU last Sunday morning? As the day dawned, the clouds over the mountain yawned – breaking open to expose various shades of sky beyond their shroud blanketing the morning. Soft grey waves curled over the crest and wrapped around the peaks on violent wind gusts thrashing the new green growth below.P1140149

Imagine…birds are chirping over the roar of Mariah in protest or defiance of this late blast of Mother Nature interrupting what had been spring’s warm welcome. Hooray hooray it’s the firsts of May and the forecast is a high of 50 degrees after overnight lows of a chilly 37 degree rain. This now after having seen record-breaking 70s in February and 80 degrees several days since.

Ah…the fluctuations of spring. With this awakening comes the want, on this Sunday morning, to climb back under the covers and hunker down.  P1140158 However, while the wind wildly whips our towering 30 foot plus blue spruce tree and all the other new green growth from tentacles of wisteria vines to our precious peach tree and fragile red buds, we ascend to the kitchen and talk about building a fire.

Yes, building a fire. With only one fireplace, I have not succumbed to the instant gratification of igniting fake logs or worse a digital image of a burning fire. Albeit I am not the one venturing out into the elements to retrieve the wood from the stack of fragrant local pinon on the side of the house. Nor am I the one shoveling the ashes to make way for a well-ventilated new pile perfectly placed to assure a good burn.

But I did painstakingly sit cross-legged in front of the fireplace for hours that turned into days breaking tiles in sturdy zip-lock freezer bags with a hammer and fit myriad shards into place creating this wild art-piece that is the focal point of our family room.

We didn’t have a mantle nor did we have a surround. We had found a tin mantle to affix to the wall at one point and later three resin plaques to mount beneath it on the painted sheetrock face creating an attempt at dressing that end of the room. But it never was quite right, never brought joy and every changing season resulted in compounded frustration for this unsatisfactory situation. The shoemaker who has not shoes was I, the designer with a sadly neglected fireplace with no design. P1080268

After more than 15 years, the day came when I enlisted Enrique Jimenez to finally make yet another of my dreams come true. With barely a breath of space on the window side of the fireplace protrusion available for a mantle return, he took the measurements and delivered a few days later a nearly fully assembled mantel and trim.20130731_181349

Once painted glossy white by dear John, the space surrounding the firebox opening begged for a finish material. I considered the usual suspects –  granite slab, harlequin glazed ceramic and glass mosaic when the whacky thought hit me – go nuts with fragments of color using treasured pieces I had collected over the years. From a shard I picked up off the street on Peace Valley Lane P1070814 the weekend of Matthew’s graduation from Stuart to little flowers and birds leftover from samples we commissioned for a donor wall at the Albuquerque Community Foundation by artist Meg Butler to chucks of Mexican Talavera and brilliant colors from other pieces and places the palette and random pattern began to take shape.

So the hours and days sitting cross-legged on the floor paid off as this multi-seasonal mosaic of color makes me happy and brings as much great joy in May as it does in December. It is a fireplace for all seasons and a happy finished product and satisfying solution to years’ old dilemma. 20160507_092036_resized

So here’s to the first day of May (last week) that came in with a chilly blast belying spring’s arrival giving us the opportunity to have a cozy Sunday by the  flames of a real fire flashing from the happy mosaic of our a bit frantic, but friendly, family room fireplace.







We staged a house this week.  We TRANSFORMED IT! Wonderful clients for several years, who I regard as friends too, called to say they were moving out-of-state and they needed to quickly  get their house ready for sale. So many things that we had planned to do and more, deferred due to life getting in the way, all of a sudden got put on the fast-track to get finished in less than a month!

When you think of staging a house for sale, you might think of a fall scene scented with stove-top cinnamon sticks warming in a pan. In the spring, as it is now, fresh flowers with floral fragrances wafting on breezes through open windows and doorways.  We had the floral bouquets – just a couple – as centerpieces in the dining room and another game table in the family room.

But in order to really make this house attractive to the prospective buyers – millennials and their families – experience tells me that we needed to install profound punctuations of exciting  new trendy finishes and colors.

I critiqued the kitchen for its old but good-as-new solid surface countertops with a dated, tell-tale sandwich of speckled forest green in between the bull-nosed edge of solid white. The cabinets were plain slab birch yellowed by time, with hand-crafted wooden handles. To place the emphasis where we would get the most “bang for the buck,” we kept the countertops, refinished the cabinets and added new mosaic tile and paint accents. 20160424_162546

A few years earlier, we had stripped adjacent identical cabinets in the dining area and re-finished them with multiple clear-coats of conversion varnish. In place of the two-screwed wooden handles, we installed three small conical-shaped  brushed stainless pulls. By adding the third holes at each, between the existing two of the wooden pulls, the detail looked intentional and contributed to a modernized interpretation of the cabinet design.  We now finished the kitchen cabinets to match which had been  slated for the same improvements, but put on the back-burned until now. P1140111

The end wall of the kitchen, with a large pass-through opening into the dining room, leaving no significant wall space for art or other accessorizing, was the perfect element for a dramatic, eye-catching full-wall treatment. A mosaic of horizontal glass tiles in earthen blacks and beiges balanced the warm cabinets and maple flooring with a strength, pattern, interest and glossy bling.  The same mosaic tile wrapped the room filling the back-splash  between countertops and upper cabinets. 20160424_162701

Outside we painted the garage doors, wall sconce and patio trim with a new organic neutral mushroom green shade. The landscaping was enhanced with new river rock and a couple of large ceramic planters were placed by the front entry with mature plants creating a sense of establishment. The plain concrete entry porch was tiled with a dark earthy porcelain continuing up the step and into the entry foyer replacing the burnt  orange tile that had been  neglected from the decades old original finishes. 20160424_164027

Additional planters were purchased to scatter about – but a more effective idea to have a strong showing of them at the end of the pool anchored that setting with a stunning blue ceramic colonnade bursting forth with brilliant contrasting yellow Celtic Broom. Massing things can often create more powerful statements rather than sparse, weak distributions of the same.

The master bedroom suite had been remodeled a couple of years prior. Pre-fabricated white melamine closet components were replaced with custom fabricated birch closets and cabinetry to continue the theme of the original cabinets in the main level of the home. Updated granite countertops, new lighting and mosaic tiles jazzed the dressing scene and brought order for the young parents running this busy family.

Staging a home requires thinking about clearing the clutter and dressing the scene. But beyond that, looking at more powerful elements to repair and update can make an enormous difference in the appeal to potential buyers. This was evidenced by the comments that we overheard specifically about the more dramatic installations like the new mosaic wall, welcoming entry tile and effective row of blue patio planters that we decided to employ really clinched the deal.


Design through the eyes of a 13 year old. A 13 year old girl having had her birthday just last weekend and who is immersed in the world of anime. Anime is a style of Japanese illustration and animation. An exciting world of fantasy and action, good versus evil all wrapped in color and remarkable edgy design.  Simply stated in her words “anime is a style of Japanese cartoons of many genre.” Her current favorite is Magi and the Labyrinth of Magic. Anime Magi-The-Labyrinth-of-Magic The characters have large saucer-like eyes belying their Japanese origin. Their story-lines appeal on many levels for all ages.

Katarina loves to watch the cartoons, draw the characters and learn about the world from which they originate. So one of her birthday to-dos was a visit to the Marukai Market in San Diego. Instantly, upon entering “Tokyo Central” colors and forms scream from floor to ceiling producing a sensory over-load that made me take a breath. Katarina beamed at my reaction. She said  with her subtle delivery “See?  I told you.” 2016-04-16 San Diego Hoech P1130765

It is a startling graphic design extravaganza of cellophane wrapped brands, foil metallic labels, signs and glitz and packaging that suggests advanced art classes on the subject.   2016-04-16 San Diego Hoech P1130764 From over-sized dangling flowers to disco balls sparkling from the rafters, the place is alive with static animation. Well, monitors too airing the vary anime of this initial topic!

The merchandise is displayed in such multiples that they are a design of their own. The patterns and redundancy, characters and faces peeking from every inch of space. Row upon row of stuffed animals each with adorable expressions begging to be taken home.2016-04-16 San Diego Hoech P1130767

But it’s the design on EVERYTHING that is so amazing. To see such an emphasis on design. The importance and effect on every package. When comparing to like-kind of variety stores in the U.S., this is product design gone wild. The edifice itself is  but a box. Simple, clean and attractive from the outside,  inside is nothing but raw retail finishes. But it doesn’t matter because the back-drop is invisible. It is impossible for the eye to go beyond the products. It is impossible to see anything of the space other than its intense collections of contents.

2016-04-16 San Diego Hoech P1130773From beverage bottles to bears, pink kitties to hair and make-up lotions and potions, games and costumes – yes you too can dress-up like a bowl of Ramen Noodles or an egg yolk named Gudetama.

Although this amazing chain of markets is concentrated in California and Hawaii, it is worth investigating the Asian Markets in your area especially with an emphasis on Japanese products to see these colorfully artful expressions of graphic design, inspiration and imagination. 2016-04-16 San Diego Hoech P1130775 Thank you Katrink for this amazing experience we shared for your birthday!!!

An article from the Washington Post came across my desk a couple of weeks ago by Bonnie McCarthy “E-decorators” draw cost-conscious clients. In this article she identifies what she calls the “modern trappings of online interior designers – designers who by her estimation are “renovating the process of how style comes home.” 20160416_103139_resized

In this writing she interviews interior designers about their various methods of providing services to their clients and certainly the newer way is more virtual than hands-on in-person. But think about it – designers have always had to deal with virtual conditions. Working from plans is just that!

With the new generation of consumers – millennials and those to follow –  computers are an appendage. Everything is referenced or accessed via a computer, tablet or smart phone. So it’s natural for them to utilize these tools for design inspiration or consultation. The article however is noting this new approach for everyone who expects a designer to be an expensive on-site investment.

Throughout the article it references the “new” e-design approach as a now more cost-effective, affordable exchange with interior designers. I think that sounds like a gimmick. The time spent is the time spent – the ideas provided are just that and the fees are the fees. Now, if these e-designers or unlicensed decorators are lowering their fees – well then that’s part of the story. However, I do not get the feeling that they are. Rather, I get the feeling that they are merely marketing to a broader audience than those found in their immediate physical locations. Smart. There’s another part of the story. Selling the idea that this is cost-effective over having to meet live with a designer and thereby getting those customers and also broadening the reach to those potential clients is a gimmick that seems to be working.

The fact that the article suggests that this new “e-design” consultation is more cost-effective than live and in-person versions of the same is interesting. Maybe it is – maybe not. It would save transportation time for the designer and they might pass that savings on to their clients – or they might just have higher fees and more profit for their time involved. Difficult to know – hourly consultation rates vary according to location and market price.

For the designers or firms that have established a formula and template for their clients, this seems fairly efficient. On-line information forms quiz clients on their likes and dislikes, personality and requirements. However,this can also be can occur on a local level at the outset of an in-person consultation. The combination of digital communication and in-person, on-site design consults might just be the best process. A client’s form might even be filled out in advance of the first meeting via email to give the designer an intro to the project. Digital images of the space in question can be uploaded for the designer to review, evaluate, and critique. What once was the method of clients snipping magazine articles and photos for review and discussion, sites like Pinterest allow for a place where designer and client can “pin” their ideas for visual communication and discussion.

So is it the cost? Is it the seeming efficiency? Is it the working at your own convenience after hours? What makes the e-design attractive? Why is it better than having a designer come to your residence and discuss on-site with images and tangible samples what you want and the designer recommends?

Tangible samples…I don’t even like or trust what I see on-line regarding fabrics and carpets – anything textile for sure is impossible on a monitor. Tangible samples that you can touch and feel, press and fold, rub and caress are invaluable features of the selection process. Therefore, the sensory deprivation of e-design is one negative. Yes, samples can be mailed – but there is a lag-time there too.

The myriad choices made available online now for home decor shopping has opened up the entire world of possibilities for the consumer. But that same client exposed to these limitless wonders of the world cannot cull their finds with confidence to bring together a cohesive design. In this design process, some things have to be forfeited and others embraced and incorporated. It’s all about making the right decisions. The designer aids in and facilitates making those right decisions and bringing in even more ideas to the project with their expertise and experience.

With thorough websites, designers can present their work and potential clients can research until they find one that they think meets their expectations. Once that has been established, the client can even interview a few designers to make sure that the in-person chemistry is there between them. Or…there’s face-time!!

So back to the e-design. It’s not new – the methods are – but design across the miles has been going on for decades. Plans mailed, faxed and now digitally shot over the globe. Prior to a building being built – it is a virtual place designed diagrammatically, built in models, illustrated, and sketched – by hand or CAD it only exists in the mind’s eye of the designers and those to whom they are conveying these concepts. ILLUSTRATION RESI CROP P1030518  Selecting the interior furnishings and finishes for these edifices has always been similarly virtual. Until something is built and furnishing  installed, the designs are all “virtual.”

So “e-design” is on another plane of communication with the client with new tools to facilitate and communicate. But the advantages or lack thereof are many and seem to be more applicable to a client in a remote location without benefit of good local designers.

I knew an incredibly creative and adventurous couple who, back in the 60s and 70s, established a private resort on an island where everything was selected and obtained via mail-order catalogs, shipped across the water, received in docks, transported to local delivery vessels and dropped on a beach weeks later. Not so different today for those located far from the modern conveniences but connected now to the  world via the internet, fast jets of Federal Express, DHL, UPS and all the trucks, sea trains and land rails that move goods around the world. That’s when this instantaneous assistance for decision-making with a designer over the miles can be extremely advantageous – you have no other means of getting together and the framework is in place to do it all remotely.

So if you fancy the idea of having an LA designer consult for your condo in Dupont Circle or a Denver designer make their recommendations for you in Boston, so be it.  Yet, I say investigate your local interior designers, visit their websites, contact their references,  and see how their fees and talents compare between each other, and then compare to them to the e-offerings on-line and go with what works best for you!



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