Monday, August 31, 2009

Flying Coffee Grounds!

Enlightened Feline, encaustic on wood w/embedded coffee grounds

I always make a mess when I add coffee grounds to my encaustics, but I love the effect. The most accurate and tidiest way to incorporate coffee grounds into wax paintings is to glue them to the substrate first and then add the wax.

However, what I do is paint a layer of wax, gather a handful of coffee grounds (I love the feel of those earthy crumbs in my hands) and rub them into the warm wax, making my hands smell like beeswax-coffee heaven. Then I drip more wax on top or sacrifice a clean paintbrush and get it full of grounds by painting wax directly on the coffee. Then I fuse the layers of wax and grounds with a heat gun and the non-adhered grounds go flying everywhere, making a huge mess.

I mention all of this to come out as an imperfect, messy, inaccurate artist. I tend not to follow directions and instead follow my intuition. I'm also very impatient. Wait for the coffee grounds to dry on the glue first?! That will take forever!

I will admit to wanting to be more patient and to try following directions more often. I don't think my house (or my partner) can take much more artistic chaos. And I do want more balance in my creative life. So, perhaps next time I will use the glue technique. Perhaps.

How do you create? Are you a messy-pants like me or do you have a clear, clean organized way of creating? Somewhere in between? Do tell!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009


Guardians of Peace, encaustic, 10" x 12"


Before my shower this morning,
I slip off my t-shirt, leaving
it to uninhabit me on the bathroom floor,
then slough off my bright orange underwear
and blue-striped pajama bottoms,
watch them as they slide down
my hips, past the yellowing bruise
on my left thigh, the mosquito bite
aglow on my left knee, and the black bird
tattoo perched on my right ankle, leaving
them at my feet like an extra layer of shed skin.

Through the shower’s foggy glass,
I spot my night self heaped in a pile,
and think of last night’s nightmare,
of my father dying all over again,
the adrenaline sweat’s sickly sweet
stain left on my clothes--
and then I spy my cat approaching,
sniffing the pajama puddle.
He circles twice before settling
in the center, then begins to knead
the little heap with his claws, rubs
his nose into my shirt’s armpit,
and sleeps right there, in the remnants
of my terror, content to be in it,
for I am comfort and he can smell it--
beneath the taste of panic’s tang,
despite the nighttime tremors
that sometimes shake him right off the bed,
I am still the one who he adores,
I am still the one who smells of love.

--Courtney Putnam, c. 2009

Monday, August 24, 2009

Finding Illumination

Illuminated, encaustic, 10" x 14"

Where do you feel most illuminated, when the world--and your life on it/in it--becomes clear as moonlight shining on a cloudless night? Is there a place you like to be to find this clarity? Or do you turn inward to find it?

When I was a teenager, I used to to go to "ferny land" to find peace and clarifying thoughts. This ferny land was a little mound of earth in my front yard where many sword ferns grew. I had created a trail through ferny land and also a clearing so I could visit often. This was also the place where we buried my childhood dog, Kippy, my best friend. When I needed illumination, I ventured to this ferny spot to sit next to my dog's burial spot and I allowed the arms of the ferns to give me strength. Often, I ventured outside when there was a full moon, so even in the dark, I could see my own body illuminated as I sat in the dirt with soft fern fingers reaching out to me, seemingly holding me up.

Now where do I go when I need illumination? I go to my journal and I write, allowing my heart to fire up my thoughts. I heat up my wax and I paint, feeling the energy of beeswax buzzing around me. I even take walks through Ravenna Park and enjoy the ferns who, like those of ferny land, line the trails like generous companions.

Where do you go? What do you do?

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Makeda Art Show

Last Friday, August 14, I entered the world of the Greenwood-Phinney Art Walk by participating in the opening of my encaustic art show at Makeda Coffee.

Makeda is vibrant and colorful, cheerful and comfortable, and it is a perfect place to showcase my art for the next month. (So if you weren't able to make the opening and would like to keep my waxy pieces company for a bit, you have more time!)

Makeda's chocolate-colored walls make my encaustics "pop" off the walls.

Many beautiful souls attended to look at art, to re-connect (a spontaneous high school reunion took place!), to partake in Makeda's refreshing refreshments, and to purchase art, art prints, and greeting cards.

Prashanthi Reddy, owner of Makeda, poses with our dear friends and their cutie-pie.

Friends who haven't seen each other in years reconnect & enjoy art.

What made this show extra special was that I was joined by the talented Corbin Lewars, also known as Reality Mom, who sold her fantastic zines and added warmth and creative energy to the evening. Corbin joined me for the evening because my art is featured in her zine -- and will be included in Reality Mom for a whole year. Thank you, Corbin! (If you'd like to subscribe to Corbin's zine, it's only $12/year for four issues and you can subscribe using PayPal if you visit her blog or website! Corbin is also looking for moms to contribute their writing to her issues, so email her at if you have a story to tell.)

Walter, master of art ceremonies, helps Corbin set up her zine booth.

Corbin and I pose for a late night picture.
We're both a bit tired and hot, but happy nonetheless.

For this show I said goodbye to Coming to an Understanding, Touched by 34 Suns, and Nature's Fireworks. I wish you well in your new homes!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Your 34 Suns

Touched by 34 Suns, 10" x 12" encaustic

A writing prompt:

Pretend you have 34 suns inside you, burning bright. Can you name them? I know somewhere inside of me lives "solar panic," "pelvic glow," "sunflower center," and "passionista." What suns live inside of you?

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

One Year to the Day

My Father Rows Away to Peace, encaustic, 8" x 10"

First Lesson

Lie back daughter, let your head
be tipped back in the cup of my hand.
Gently, and I will lie out on the stream
and look high at the gulls. A dead-
man's float is face down. You will dive
and swim soon enough where this tidewater
ebbs to the sea. Daughter, believe
me, when you tire on the long thrash
to your island, lie up, and survive.
As you float now, where I held you
and let go, remember when fear
cramps your heart what I told you:
lie gently and wide to the light-year
stars, lie back, and the sea will hold you.

Philip Booth

(Thank you, Angela, for giving this poem to me after my father died last year. Yes, the sea is holding me, even with the currents thrashing so.)

Monday, August 10, 2009

Summer Art Show at Makeda Coffee!

(click image above to see the poster in larger size!)

Please join us this Friday, August 14 (6-9pm) for an artful evening!

Makeda Coffee: 153 N. 78th St, Seattle (Greenwood neighborhood)

Corbin Lewar's Reality Mom Zine Blog:

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Letting Everything Go...

As it Goes, encaustic, 6" x 6" on panel board

This is a week for letting things go as they go. It takes some strength and clear intention to let go of control. I'm noticing how much I want to control how I feel this week, as this week is the one-year anniversary of my dad's death (or my dad "moving to another state" as my friend Karen likes to call it).

I am trying to embrace the idea that what I feel is what I feel. How it goes is how it goes. Wednesday will come and it will go and I will mark the day with my family. We will be however we will be. Creating too many scripts feels exhausting (and truth to tell, my dad would be embarrassed by too much fanfare, too much planning and troubling ourselves). But there will be ritual and there will be intentional moments. I am just learning to let go of how it all turns out. I am learning to let go of perfection. I am learning to let the universe hold me in its arms. I am learning to breathe in what is.

Is there something in your life that you'd like to just let go as it goes? A feeling your having? A relationship you're in? A creative project? What can use a little less of your control? What could use a bit more letting go?

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

The Rhetoric of Green

So I have a magnificent friend named Sarah Slaone, author of the amazing and insightful The I Ching for Writers, who made it possible for me to have my first paid (!) art piece for the cover of a publication.

Above is what the publication is going to look like. My encaustic piece, Family Gathering, became the main scene for this Colorado University system college reader, which has a circulation of about 1,800.

Pretty groovy! And a big thank-you goes out to Sarah for championing my work!