There's No Such Thing As Too Many Owls

New Wisdom for an Old Soul          Painting by Cindy Silverstein

Painting Workshop with Tracy Verdugo

I went to a terrific workshop last weekend at Art Is You Retreats in Stamford, CT.  I spent two days painting with the sweet and talented Tracy Verdugo, who generously shares the knowledge and techniques she has developed that allow her to experience great freedom of expression and joy as she paints. Tracy teaches the art of play. This art is alive in us as young children, but we tend to lose the necessary spontaneity as we grow into adulthood. We become goal oriented, and judge ourselves and our art harshly. 

The tone of the class was felt as soon as we walked into the room and breathed in the happy, soothing energy.  But it was the long tables laden with canvases the size of your average soccer field that stole our attention.  Some were concerned about working with such a large canvas, but felt more confident as we started playing with the first layers of the canvas.  Tracy has all sorts of clever ways of getting us to allow ourselves to play.  And it's all fun.  

I am very pleased with my Owl painting from the class, and I can't wait to begin my next canvas.  For some time, I've wanted to loosen up and enjoy the process of painting more, and I found that the time was right in Tracy's class. I saw beautiful paintings in that room of eager and grateful artists, and I have gained a renewed sense of excitement about my artwork.  

Tracy's brand new book, Paint Mojo, is available for pre-publication order on Amazon.com.     


Voting Is Open for Lilla Rogers Global Talent Search

Sorry, voting is now closed. Thank you to all who voted.

For the better part of the summer I have been involved in the Lilla Rogers Global Talent Search.  Over 1500 artists from around the world entered the contest and I am one of the 50 semi-finalists!!!  This is a huge event in the art licensing world. Today begins the voting to select one artist to represent the popular vote.  Five others will be chosen by a panel of judges, and these six will go on to the final round. The judges will then chose one winner who will receive a 2 year contract with Lilla Rogers Studio, one of the world's top licensing agencies.  

Public voting begins today, Sept. 3 and continues through Sept. 9
The 6 finalists will announced on Sept. 10.

Our assignment was to create a design for a tote bag with a Fall theme to be sold at framers' markets. If you love my design, and I hope you do, please go to the sight and vote for me. It would make me soooo happy!!!!


I'm Learning How to Take Care of Myself

Learning how to take care of ourselves is actually an aspect of learning to love ourselves.  We often feel guilty about paying attention to our own wellbeing. We don't think about how this benefits everyone. However, our culture, with all its demands on our time and energy makes self care a challenge.  

I once heard a teacher talking about meditation to new students.  He said, "It's good to meditate about a half hour every day, but if you're really busy, meditate for one hour."   We all laughed, because, although he surprised us with his conclusion, we knew he was right.  Rather than taking time from our other activities, meditation, yoga and similar practices give us more energy and focus and allow us  to handle our responsibilities and demands in an economical way.  These practices lift the confusion that we can experience when we are stressed;  they clear the mind and make our efforts more productive, our decision making more natural and intuitive.  A lot of energy and time are wasted when we are stressed and confused.  I found this especially true while taking care of my daughter when she was young.  Because I meditated before she got up in the morning, I was able to be more available to her instead of being focused on my own unmet needs.  

Of course there are many other ways of taking care of ourselves:  diet, exercise, positive thinking, vacations, creative time, reading, taking courses, to name a few.  I wonder what our feline friend in red is learning about taking care of himself.  Any ideas?


Learning to Love Myself

I'm taking a tip from my cat Matisse, whom you see above in his blue period, and I'm learning to love myself.....again. I practice this, but it doesn't seem to stick for very long. It's easy to forget, when I get caught up in the tasks and responsibilities of everyday life, that I need to love myself even while doing all those seemingly ordinary things. And it can sound pretty silly at times, the idea that I need to practice loving myself. After all, who am I to think it's okay to love myself? Or to even think about it. Nobody told me to do that when I was growing up.  In fact, it was discouraged. Loving myself would make me become conceited, spoiled, and a snob with a swelled head and a big ego. Our culture tells us these things.  Unfortunately, I listened to the discouraging voices that had made a home in my head and I learned to doubt and berate myself whenever the opportunity arose.  

I know better now, but it's hard to change thought patterns that are very entrenched in the mind. Awareness is the key.  It is most easily developed through practices such as meditation, contemplation, prayer, yoga, or reading spiritual works. Through awareness, or being the Witness, it is possible to become an observer of the thoughts in the mind that are not beneficial to our happiness or growth as a human and spiritual being. This very witnessing of the mind is what can change negative habitual thinking into a more positive and uplifting experience.  It is a process, and not accomplished overnight, but the practice can create a transformation in every aspect of our lives. With the positive change in our thoughts comes a positive change in our feeling.  Our positive feeling has the capacity to hold love more fully than negative feeling.  The kind of love that I am talking about is not that which we get from circumstances outside of ourselves.  It comes welling up freely from within. 


Mixed Media Angel of Bliss Acrylic Painting

 Angel of Bliss

In this new painting I concentrated on lightening my palette.  I was tired of the darker and heavier colors that I had been using.  Limiting my palette to three basic colors, plus black, white, raw umber and light portrait pink really helped me to simplify my approach to this painting.  The three basic colors I used were quinicridone magenta, pthalo blue [green shade] and pthalo green [blue shade].   All the colors you see in the painting were mixed from these colors.  This insures that all the colors will relate to one another...None of that funny feeling you get when your colors are fighting and clashing.

I was pretty generous with my white paint, which kept the colors light and summery [like sorbet, as my daughter observed].  I had not used a retarding medium much in the past.   [I always wanted my work to dry at lightening speed.]  This time however, I used the retarder in order to make the blending of the background and skirt easier.  I'm now a devout convert to retarding medium.  I also added a bit of Flow medium to make my high velocity paints more fluid.  Matte medium is pretty much a constant in my mixtures to make sure the first layers, [usually pretty papers, stamps and vintage ephemera] can peek through. 

Please note:  white mixed with a color can make the mix too opaque.  Add matte medium to make it more transparent and test it out to make sure you won't be covering something you'll want to see.

Because I used a charcoal outline, it needs to be fixed before I apply the acrylic varnish, or it will smudge.  I'm not liking the fact that spray varnish is highly toxic.  Some artists I know use hairspray to fix delicate media just enough so that an acrylic varnish can then be applied over the whole canvas. I tried it and it works great!  Make sure to allow all applications to dry between coats.


Digital Layers in Photoshop Elements

Photo of Kate with addition of Photoshop Elements effects and layers
I'm having a great time learning how to use layers in Photoshop Elements to help me create photos that tell more of a story. I shoot a lot of photographs of family, vacations, and especially nature, and I sometimes like to integrate these photos into my artwork. I've used Photoshop for a few years but had never been able to figure out the layers part. I bought the book Digital Expressions by Susan Tuttle a couple of months ago and decided to take her on-line course, Digital Layers. I'm in the middle of the course now and I'm loving it.

                                                                    Maine Houses by Cindy Silverstein

I did this painting of Maine Houses a few years ago and I wanted to add some more interest. I used a couple of artistic filters to add some age to the buildings and then a layer using a photo of some flowers that I had taken. I cannot give details of proceedures I'm learning in class, but I guarantee that Susan can take the mystery out of Layers for you! She offers several on-line classes in Photoshop on a regular basis.


Acrylic Mixed Media Painting in Layers

The e-course with Kelly Rae Roberts has finished in one sense but it will continue to grow my creative life in countless ways. This painting was made during the course, inspired by a photograph of me at about 15 with my Scottish Terrier, Junior. Cats have taken over my life now but every time I see a long haired fuzzy doggie, I melt.

This mixed media painting is layered with torn scrapbook paper and text from old books as a background. I used Claudine Hellmuth's acrylic paints mixed with Liquitex Matte Medium to glaze layers over the paper background. Claudine also has a matte medium in her line.

I built up the layers of transparent glazes for the girl and doggie. As I got to the final layers I made the glazes more opaque by adding a little white or by using less medium depending on the look I needed. Texture from layers of brush stokes and paper become more interesting as the process continues.

The final layer (the fine hair and the eyes and nose) for the doggie was created with black dimensional Scribbles paint. Paint by Tim Holtz that dries to a crackle finish was used all around the edges of the painting to give an aged look. Gold metallic paint, Tim Holtz Grungeboard letters , and an antique key are the final touches.

If you want to know anything more about the process, please leave your question in the comment section.


New Blog Design

Welcome to my newly designed blog!! I would like to spend more time here and I hope you will feel the same way. My online course with Kelly Rae Roberts [artist, writer and teacher] is inspiring me to share more of myself and my artwork. For the past several months I've been creating some new mixed media paintings, doing a lot of knitting and have been studying wirework and jewelry design. I'll be talking about some of these things and posting lots of photos.


Colorful Knit Hats for Primrose Craft Show

Craft Show...Primrose Elementary School, Somers NY, Sat. Dec. 5th, 10-4

Handmade clay button
Monet, very proud in his handknit collar
Matisse looking dignified in his collar
Here are my handsome boys showing off the collars I knit for them. They absolutely love them. Sometimes Monet [top] will lose his. When I find it and ask him if he wants to wear his collar, he stretches forward to let me put it on him. One day the collar was on the coffee table and Monet kept looking at the collar then looking at me, so I held it in front of him and again he stretched forward so I could slip it around his neck. He just loves that thing, and loves the praise when we tell him how handsome he is. Matisse [bottom] witnessed all this so when he got his own collar, he was very proud. He has always been a nervous cat but he easily lets us put the collar on him. The collars are made of 100% wool. I think they like the slight sheepy scent.
Terrific holiday gifts, these Kitty Collars will be featured at the Primrose Craft Show on Saturday Dec. 5th, along with beautifully designed knit hats for children and adults; ultra thick and toasty wrist warmers; adorable coffee cozies that provide a layer of safety between your hot beverage container and your hand; fashionable wrist bangles; knit and crocheted Kitchen Cloths that are "green" and at the same time come in lots of colors and patterns; thick and comfy neck warmers with chunky handmade clay buttons; colorful handmade clay beads, jewelry and much more.


Late Breaking News....


Two paintings recently sold [well.... ok......last summer] at the Art and Soul Gallery in Ogunquit, Maine: Velvet Night Angel, top and center, and They said she was too young to be in love, bottom.

The latter painting is particularly special to me because I used a photo of my mother, taken around 1944 when she was 18. I used acrylic paint for the background, patterned paper for the green and yellow areas, a hand stamped and baked charm [LOVE] made from the unfortunately named "shrink plastic". As the sheet plastic is baked in a toaster oven it is reduced in size by about 30% and gets thicker and stronger. I'll have a whole tutorial on shrink plastic in a future post. It's really fun to use and has unlimited design possibilities. The charm at the top is also made from the same material and stamped with an original hand carved stamp [another great project]. The words were done on the computer with a font designed in an old fashioned typewriter style. All the collage elements were adhered with acrylic matte medium to a stretched canvas. I use Liquitex or Golden mediums.

Both paintings are what I would call mixed media collage on canvas. The Velvet Night painting uses acrylic paints, dioxizine purple and pthalo blue, in various ratios to create the night sky. Fabric was used for the dress, the ground, and the rectangular piece on the left, which was painted with fabric paint and stamped with a hand carved stamp.

The flower is a copyright free black and white drawing [Dover Publications] that I painted with acrylics. Upper right is a postage type stamp in sticker form and the lower right shows a hand stamped polymer clay piece brushed with Jacquard metallic powders and baked in a toaster oven. The raised areas of gold are made with dimmentional paint such as Scribbles. Last were added a tiny lock and a key. The top triangle piece is made from foam core and covered with watercolor paper. It is painted in acrylic, with another rectangular shaped polymer clay piece. Individual rubber stamp letters are used to create the wording.
Don't know why there's a big gap here, but keep scrolling down for more. There IS more, I promise!!


Fall Crafts at Croton Falls

This is my friend Genevieve Boehme, who participated in a Craft Show with me at the Croton Falls Community Church on October 3rd in Croton Falls, NY. Her booth made quite a hit with everyone. The name of her business is polkadoodles, polkadoodleshandmade.com. Take a look at her website to see all the wonderful fabric items she skillfully makes for women, babies and the home.

My husband Dave and I set up our booth, which turns out looking like a Greenhouse full of Fall Vegetables!

My friend and mascott, Froggy sits permanently atop a child's red knit hat and attracts a loyal following wherever he goes. He's a great conversation starter.

Late harvest root vegetables receive a shower of snowflakes.

My booth displays knit, crocheted and felted items side by side with original designs in jewelry, beads and buttons. This lightfilled greenhouse-like window in the church was a welcome surprise.

Beads in colorful polyclay.

Whimsical Buttons in polyclay, when you have a cherished handknit that needs closure, or a handbag or tote that wants some pizzaz.

Polyclay Pins, great for a jacket, coat, handbag, bulky sweater...
a strong fabric that requires a big statement.

A very lightweight pendant with handstamped original designs, colored inks, charms.... all held together with copper wire, and hung from a soft glass cord. Handmade copper clasp.

A local craft show is the perfect venue for making a start selling your crafts directly to the public. It's not as threatening to the novice as a larger show, doesn't require distant travel
or an expensive stayover, and is a great way to learn the basics of selling. With each show you will become more organized, better known to the local community, more confident, and you will have a better idea of what to make and how best to present your creations. You can find local shows by searching on the internet, by checking local newspapers and the Pennysaver, looking for signs along the roads in your area, checking with churches and synagogues, schools and PTA's. Check out the sales tax rates in the county in which you will be selling. You can add the tax to the cost of your items at the time of sale or include the sales tax in the ticketed price. Go online to learn how to apply for a sales tax certificate in your state, and if you sell in a state other than your own, learn that state's sales tax laws. You will need to send the sales tax money you collect to the appropriate state office on a specific schedule that will be explained to you.

You will likely need to purchase a 6x3 foot folding table and a couple of folding chairs. I keep my table under my couch. Some venues provide you with these items. A cloth placed over the table is useful, especially for hiding empty boxes and bins underneath. I'll talk about other items to bring on my next post.


Felting Woolen Knits and Crochet

I've done a lot of felting over the last few years and I find it very satisfying. Knitted or crocheted wool items can be felted, that is, washed in very hot water and machine agitated until the fibers "knit" together to form a thick, sturdy fabric that is wonderful to touch and and is great for keeping us warm. The original item shrinks in the process by about 30%, and it's quite exciting to see how your original knit or crocheted item turns out. It can also be shocking to see that great big bag that you created shrink to a tiny immitation of its former self.
Shown above are a felted purse with an original handmade charm, a set of four felted coasters of different colors, and a felted crocheted scarf of many different yarns and colors done in a wave pattern.
I will be discussing more about felting in a future post.


Here Today, Gone Today!

A few days ago, I posted this painting on my blog and wrote a wonderful tutorial in great detail on how it was created. Well, my mistake was going back into the post to make a few small changes. And what do you know, POOF, in one absentminded click, the entire post was gone. Not being someone who favors writing all that much, I found this quite discouraging. I've never kept a journal as so many artists do, or a sketchbook like all my teachers told me to do. I always just preferred getting right to my next project. Kind of like people who don't do a gauge swatch before knitting a nice sweater that turns out to be a beach cover-up for a rhino. I wasn't born with blogger genes.

Anyway, my cute little "everything's coming up kittens" painting/collage shown above was created using: for the background, acrylic paints mixed with matte medium as a glaze over a layer of torn paper text; fabric for the flower, ground, kitten, and moon; cut paper for the stem and leaves; the line work was achieved by using a dimensional paint (such as Scribbles) from a squeeze bottle. I brushed a bit of acrylic paint over the leaves and stem. For the lettering I used one of those liquid white pens that you have to shake. But I had to go over the lettering again because it came out too light. That was scary, because it had to be perfectly aligned with the first rendition. It worked out well, but now I'm experimenting with various white gel pens that I purchased from Jet Pens on the Internet. The ink must be waterproof so that when you seal the painting with an acrylic varnish, it will not dissolve, and it must adhere to acrylic paint. I'll let you know what I find.

Please ask questions about any aspect of my blog, including more detailed explanations of techniques and materials, in the comments section or email me. Just click on my profile picture for a link to email.


Knitted Flowered Hats

Summer evenings were spent under the cool gentle breezes of the air conditioner, knitting and watching some of the best that Netflix has to offer. My film majoring daughter and I, having been British in our former lives, enjoyed a fraction of the approximately 525,600 hours of DVD available from the 1970's BBC hit, Upstairs Downstairs. If you are an avid knitter, I recommend a subscription to Netflix, or conversely, if you are an avid Netflix subscriber, I recommend you take up knitting seriously. Seriously. It is a match made in Heaven. We watched other stuff, too, all of which I loved but most of which I can't remember (at least not the titles).


Where have I been?

I learned today that the gallery sold three paintings. Shown above, they are "Too Young to Be in Love", "The Fiddler and Me" and "Courage", for which I don't have an image. I felt encouraged by this news, because today the economic headlines had me thinking, I'd better get a real job.

That thought, noble though it was, lasted until I caught myself looking once again on Amazon.com for more inspirational books on mixed media painting and collage (knitting and crochet, too). Like I haven't already bought out the entire craft sections of Barnes & Noble and Borders.

So getting back to the question I posed in the headline. I have been doing a lot of knitting this summer because my loft studio has been so hot I couldn't work there. During recent previews of the cooler fall weather, I have started my painting routine again (note cat with arm warmers... detail of a painting). Other ideas are well in the works.

The last photo above shows three facecloths knit in organic cotton, and a knit flower embellishment, created for a special friend. I have knit and designed many items and would like to sell them on Etsy. I'm already selling prints and note cards of paintings at that site. See links on right side of blog page.

Hope everyone had a creative summer. I've had blogger's block, but I'm back!


Acrylic Painting Tutorial / Shower Your World with Love

This original acrylic painting was created with multiple layers of transparent color mixed with matte medium. I used Liquitex brand acrylics and medium. I usually start with my backgrounds creating layers of different colors. I am partial to pthalo blue, pthalo green and dioxizene purple. These are very intense colors. You only need to use a small amount of pigment when you mix them with medium. I dip my brush into water first, but I don't mix my paints with water. I only use medium. It makes the colors so much richer and the pigment doesn't break up as it can when too much water is used.
To get blended colors as in the transition of the sky from dark at the top to light below, I work quickly and don't use retarding medium, while blending with a fan shaped brush. I start at the top with a greater amount of the dark paint gradually adding more medium as I proceed down the canvas. When this layer is dry, I go over the area again using medium with a little titanium white. I work fast and lightly adding this lightened mixture to areas of the background moving again down the canvas from about 1/4 of the way from the top to the bottom of the sky area. You can experiment until you get the result you want using varying amounts of medium, white and blue pigment, blending with the fan brush quickly before it dries, and going back into different areas you want to darken or lighten.
I like to add dioxazene purple to the top of the painting to create a very dark sky, so that it looks like I'm looking far out into the universe. Stars really pop against the dark sky and that can look very dramatic.
With a design this detailed I start with a drawing on paper and either transfer it to the canvas, or redraw onto the canvas. A good drawing tool to use is a watercolor pencil in a contrasting color, because if you want to erase, just use a damp paper towel. Another method I like to use is to draw on good paper, cut the image out carefully and adhere it to the canvas with matte medium. Completely coat the back of the paper, press into place and with a large brush, paint medium over the top of the cutout. Let dry and you have a great surface on which to paint your main subject. This can be done with other objects in the painting as well.
All the light blue areas shown are mixed from the same colors as the background with some more white added. When you add white to a mixture with matte medium, the more you add, the more opaque it becomes. This is a good approach for foreground areas.
I always use very few colors in my paintings. I keep a limited pallette, mixing colors instead to get what I need. This way, all colors in the painting are compatable.
For the detail areas in the angel, I used a muted orange, which pops because it is the complementary color of the blue. So my colors don't appear garrish, I mix them with small amounts of their compliments to tone them down.
The last step in the painting is adding all the stars and hearts to give the painting a magical quality.
This painting has been my most popular work. 8 x 10 inch prints are available at my Etsy store for $18.00 should you wish to purchase one. Click on one of the links to the right and at top of my blog.
Happy Painting!



My artwork will be featured on the etsy.com VALENTINE SHOWCASE on Thursday January 31 from 12:00 noon for 24 hours. Check it out on their main page.
When my daughter was home from college winter break we got onto a sewing binge. These bags are the result of my efforts and I intend to make more bags, purses and clutches. I wanted them to fit into the look I have created for my artwork and I believe they do, in color, feeling and design. The bags are fully lined and they have a layer of interfacing as well. The hearts are appliqued. The fabric is high quality 100% cotton. A handmade shrink art LOVE charm graces the top of the bags above the heart.

NOTE CARDS now available on Etsy Site

I've just added blank note cards of some of my favorite art prints to my Etsy Store website. They are sold in sets of 8 cards with 8 envelopes. The cards are suitable for framing if one so chooses and are a great way to communicate happiness to friends and loved ones.