Panama, 1956, a two-year-old’s life enchantment with art and the natural world begins.
My brilliant mathematician dad moved with his artistic wife and their young child, me, to Panama.
Bumping along by jeep through the Panamanian jungles, I would be busy absorbing and making images from the “watercolor art box” my parents gave me. Growing up with monkeys, ants, iguanas, and exotic flowers was to be my childhood studio for the next 5 years.
Those early years growing up in Panama imprinted a world of wonder and colour that has been my life work since.
When we moved to the Delta of northern California, our Central American jungle experience seeded new creatures and a new landscape with rows of pear trees and tomato farms. I often return here to the inspiration of the Sacramento River to draw and journal from my childhood roots.
In my teens, the Beatrix Potter Tale of Peter Rabbit inspired me to become an illustrator and writer. While studying painting and theatre at UC Berkley, I supported myself by designing textiles for Esprit and the Gap, which led to traveling to seek shapes, patterns, and color for the design possibilities.
My homes became my studios. This has been an important aspect of creating and producing throughout my life. I learned to sew clothing with my mother, which would later help me in costume design and crafting for my homes.
Urban life began to blend and harmonize with my early natural senses. All my flats have been flower box-sized outside-in spaces.
My 20s brought me the opportunity to move to Norway, where I was hired to document old farms that had been abandoned during the black plague.
My next studio home was a small rose-maled cabin on a sheep farm. The style of painting, brought forth from skiing in and out of the cabin, added another layer to my designs. My love for colorful borders, wild animals and folk costumes became drawings for Christmas cards, portraits of children and homes.
In my 30s, my “Hallmark life” produced card lines that enabled me to purchase my next home-studio abroad.
The contrasts of owning an 18th-century French farmhouse as well as a four-story Victorian in Nelson, British Columbia, motivated documentation of the seasonal French lavender fields with the wild blueberry patches in Canada. It was an exhilarating time to continue making art about natural landscapes and people with their heritages and working lives.
While traveling and working as a children’s book illustrator, I became pregnant. A new journey began with becoming a mother at 42.
I lived in France and Canada for 14 years.
When she asked to move back to her birthplace of Sun Valley, we pulled ourselves up by our paintbrushes and relocated to the land of mountains, lakes, and forests in Idaho to build what has become a true art studio-home base. The time was full as a parent, entering art festivals with watercolor paintings, acrylic floorcloths, hand-painted paper parasols, teaching privately, and continuing to illustrate children’s books.
The Idaho home-studio became the next art project, with recycled oak flooring, wooden doors, dozens of windows, an antique porcelain farm sink, refectory cabinets, claw-foot bathtub, and bathroom fixtures.
Within 6 months, my daughter and I had our new up-cycled nest. French mattress fabrics were sewn into new curtains for cabinets and windows. Today our French artisan chandelier hangs above the table that welcomes gatherings of dinner guests, artists, and students. This familiar light shines upon new art projects throughout every season of the past 11 years. A sewing machine sits ready for stitching collage papers or Japanese fabrics for art student bags.
Assorted workstations flow through the house and spill into the garden and porch.
Our tree house brings birdsong and filtered light so that every day is a new palette of possibility. Flowerpots adorn the upper deck, while the pear and apple trees bear their fruit, providing sustenance for fruit pies.
This Idaho home moves through the seasons, between times spent with doors wide open in the summer, gardening, and drawing in a variety of locations under the trees or on the upper covered porch. Summer nights, I can be out in the elements and be protected by my willow fencing and cozy covers.
The simple chores, from snow removal to weeding, allow reflective time while being a part of nature in a way that continues to nurture my imagination. I will often pause to take a quick photo of the sky or a closeup of a budding flower to be used in a project that always awaits me upon my long wooden tables.
There is a natural rhythm of work that begins when the birds wake and then slows down when the sun goes over the western mountains. Regular home-studio tours welcome patrons, students, friends, and newcomers to create, discuss, and purchase art that lights up the stairwell and walls of my home. When I am not traveling, travelers can come to me through Airbnb rentals, and when I venture overseas for winters, my whole house can be rented and enjoyed.
It is a delight to share the comforts that my home-studio embodies, with her 18th-century duvet covers transformed into curtains to frame and give poetic contrast to the shelves of colorful chaos of a collector. Nature provides real art from birds’ nests and more sea glass with woven rugs from Norway, and all those quirky found objects that make my landscape me.
The birds become subjects for art pieces fashioned from folding 1910 Harvard classic books.
At this time, I begin to back-pedal into my travel journals, seeing them as my beacon of creative wishes: new forms of art journaling, layered with ticket stubs, souvenirs, natural materials, and maps adding new stacks of life experiences through art.
Being a family required that we be more in one stable place. The Philadelphia dog show hired me, resulting in commissions for painting hundreds of dogs.
These could be painted between meals and hikes, with my daughter and dog. As an artist, I find myself creating from the life that is in the present, and this time period led to a prolific period of portrait work of animals, children, and families, customized into another series of Christmas cards.
With art supplies and journal tucked into my rucksack, I am a mobile-world-art-studio. Yesterday’s morning beachcombing made my home-away-from-home a winter studio retreat of productivity. Today these treasures adorn my Idaho studio and continue to warm me with fond memories of that colorful community.
As my daughter grew, I started to travel once again. The warmth and color of Mexico drew me from the long cold winters of Idaho. Volunteer work initially allowed me to connect and give to the community of San Pancho. I was sponsored and housed during the winters of 2010-2016 by Entreamigos (entreamigos.org.mx), a community non-profit providing classes in computer and language development and recycling, along with Gilles Ste-Croix, founder of Circo de los Ninos (circodelosninosdesanpancho.mx/en) and the famous Cirque du Soleil. I contributed to the program by painting murals and making costumes for the circus fundraiser after a hurricane had swept through the Nayarit region.
We all worked together as a community to create a children’s book from the village children’s art in order to further help with the repairs and clean-up.
These souvenirs provide references for larger paintings and commissioned pieces. The journals are my muses and my legacy.
To me, watercolor portraits of those we love mean more than any art I create or collect. My favorite painting is of my daughter, Ameila. I can paint a watercolor portrait for you from a favorite photograph; simply contact me at: email@example.com.
The travel journal will continue to unfold. This autumn, I begin a new chapter in a year 1755 flat in Edinburgh, Scotland, where I will create my next studio-home. I have sewn more new-from-old fabrics for duvet covers, hot pads, and pillowcases. My bags are packed with clothing essentials and hungry blank journal pages, fresh and ready for the sea air of fresh inspirations.
Join me as I branch out and curate art travel excursions from Scotland to France in 2022. You can follow me on Facebook or Instagram for updates of travels, work for sale, or to contact me to collaborate with your own “joie de vivre” travel-journal-art-adventure.