Category Archives: Commons

Day of the Dead!



A few years ago I decided to have a fall party.  Not wanting to be like everyone else, I decided to make the theme “Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead!”   But being a white girl, and having many friends who didn’t understand this theme, only my “Artsie Fartsie” friends showed up.  They really get me!





I did this for a few years, and still, only my “Artsie Fartsie” friends showed up, with few exceptions.


So today I’m going to post some of the skulls I created for these parties.


They were fun to do, and though time-consuming, it felt really good to complete some dozen or more skulls.


I think we had four large, and ten or twelve small skulls……..


All decorated differently.



I hoped you had fun seeing a different kind of artwork, and  that it will give you some inspiration to create something outside the box.

Note:  Outside the box probably depends on where you live, and what you already create!

Time Out for Art!


Today being Thursday, it’s once again Time Out for Art Day!  I thought I’d throw in a little abstract painting I did a couple of years ago.   Maybe I’m trying to inspire myself to keep painting, or maybe it’s an attempt to get some of you to paint abstractly.  Abstract painting is  fun, and it finds its own way….

Sunshine of the Lake

Sunshine of the Lake

Time Out for Art has been inspired by Zebra Designs & Destinations, I know you’ll find them as inspiring as I do!

So….Mom Wasn’t Perfect After All!


In our house the words, Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle are common place.  Don’t get me wrong,  we both love to spend money, and buy new things, who doesn’t?  Actually,  I think I’m the best at spending.  My husband thinks he’s the best at it!  Ok,  both of us have to keep check on each other!

When I was small, mother and myself would go out junking, or antiquing, depending on the store.  If it was called an antique store, everything in it would be higher in price.  If it was called a junk store, prices would reflect that.  Today even junky Junk stores are pricy, and antique stores are out of the ballpark!  When it comes to reusing something, I’m the one in our household who loves taking something old, and repurposing it.

Many years ago, when I first got married, we didn’t have a lot of money, so Mom and I would look everywhere for furniture that we could both fix up for my new home.  Mom could sniff out the best bargains of anyone I have ever met, and she really knew how to negotiate the best price for those bargains  too!  I remember finding an oblong pine drop leaf table that was in great condition.  Just the table, not the chairs.  I really needed that table, so after bargaining with the shop owner,  the price was dropped to a doable amount, and home we went with our new purchase.

The thing is, I never really liked that table!

It was maple, and looked too Early American for me, but since I needed one, and the price was right, I bought it!  Mom loved Early American, and she secretly wanted me to love it also, but my style was more country.  I liked that worn look of history!

Several months later I found a different table at the same shop, and this time it was the table of my dreams!  This  table was an old, oak, oval, kitchen table with two drop leafs, and a square pedestal.    It had really been beaten up, and you could tell it had lived a colorful life just by sliding your hand over the top.  Character, and personality, oozed out  the grain of the wood, and  it had a charm that the other table would never have!  As I proceeded to negotiate with the shop owner, I could feel my stomach churning with excitement.  It wasn’t long before he agreed to take the other table in exchange for my beautiful new farm table.  Even in those days, these tables were rare, and to this day, I’ve never seen one exactly like it.  Even reproductions aren’t close!

That same afternoon, Mother, and myself loaded the maple table into the back of her wagon, and off we went to return it to the shop, and exchange it for my new farm table.  We worked quickly before the owner of the store changed his mind.  He most likely could get more money from the first table, it certainly was in better condition, but I only wanted to make sure the oak table didn’t find itself in another home by mistake!  As everyone knows, one man’s junk, is another man’s treasure!

The real fun began when Mom and I delivered  the oak table to my apartment, and spent the rest of the afternoon deciding how to clean it up without damaging it even more! I think we used Murphy’s Oil Soap on it, followed by a robust application of steel wool to smooth out the surface.  Today, I use  Murphy’s for cleaning my make up brushes, and my art brushes…it is the best, most gentle thing you could ever use on brushes!  When we were finished cleaning up the table it had a beautiful patina, and the grain of the wood was fabulous!    Let me tell you that table gave us many years of wonderful service, it always looked so beautiful when it was dressed up with fancy skirts, fine  china, and my best  silver.   I can still see it, and long for a table just like it, maybe a place to put it while I’m sitting here longing would be nice also!

A couple of years later I received a call from my Mother one afternoon, late in the day.  She told be she had found four bent wood chairs, and she asked if I would I like to have them?  Of course, “ I’d love to have them!”  I’d been dreaming of having bent wood chairs, and had never found anything close to a chair like that  on my  junking days, so yes!  Pretty soon, I was pulling the ugly chairs I’d been using out of my dinning room , and replacing them with four cleaned up, and polished bent wood chairs.  That really made my day!

I found out later that Mother had lifted (literally lifted),  the chairs from the back of a Thrift Store where someone had donated them.  I guess Mom wasn’t perfect after all!

Mom, and I went on like this for years until Dad decided to retire, and sell their home to live aboard a  boat in Long Beach Harbor.  That turned out to be fun too, but the antiquing days as we knew them, would now be only a memory, and  we never kicked around like that again.  Occasionally, while one of us would visit the other, we  would  do a little garage sailing, and thrift store shopping, but it never was the same.

Those days were so much fun, we were able to do so much as mother and daughter, and those memories are  something I will always cherish!

Day 20: A Treasured Old Friend!


Once upon a time, in a state far to the midwest  (from California that is), near a large body of water, at a time almost too long ago to mention, just after my birth…..I took a buggy ride with my mother pushing all the way!  Phew that took the wind out of me. I was very small, but old enough to go for walks, and eventually…go shopping with my mother.

Mother, & myself in my English Carriage

Mother, & myself in my English Carriage

Before I was born, my parents bought me a very large, Black English Perambulator… because that’s what they did in those days.  It was probably large enough for Mother to climb into, and take a nap with me should the occasion arise –  to my knowledge, that never happened!

We started out walking around the neighborhood on the very mildest, and most beautiful  days of July…  Since I was born the 23 of  May, I’m sure  we never left the house for at least six weeks after my birth. Who knows…maybe longer!

Things were different in those days, everything was different.   Hospital stays after giving birth were ridiculously long, something like two weeks.  If I had to stay in the hospital for two weeks after having my children, I would have chewed my arm off out of boredom!  But… I’m guessing that didn’t happen in those days.  On the other hand, sometime after being sleep deprived for several months, it would have been really nice to spend two weeks in the hospital being pampered!  I’m told…you can’t have it all!

I’ll bet you’re wondering if the Perambulator was my treasured friend?

Maybe at the time…but NO!    When we would take a walk, people would want to look in and see the baby (that would be me).  My poor mother would cringe at the thought of anyone touching, or breathing on her prized possession (again, that would be me)!   It was quite a conundrum because, Mother really wanted to show me off to all her friends, and even the people who would soon be her friends because, I was so cute, and they would tell her so!  Finally, Mother quickly realized that netting placed gingerly over the entire carriage would solve this problem, and then, and only then would she be able to show me off  without having to constantly tell them not to touch the baby (me).  After many walks around the block, with Mother prancing all the way,  we finally made our way to downtown Detroit. Maybe I forgot to mention being born at the Mount Carmel Hospital in Detroit Michigan.  This was in the early forties, and since then the hospital has been torn down with the newest of hospitals, probably state of the art,  being built-in it’s place.

Mount Carmel Hospital

Mount Carmel Hospital

On this particularly perfect day in September, Mother and I packed up all our gear, and proceeded to walk into downtown Detroit to a large department store by the name of JL Hudson’s.  Now,  this store was the place to go if you were anyone, and we were anyone!  I’m sure Mother packed diapers, bottles, rattles, blankets, and anything, and everything …just in case.  Just in case, because you never know….  As we wound our way around the  wooded streets of Royal Oaks, in the suburbs I could smell the fresh air, and hear the rustling of the trees.  After a while, the noise was getting louder, and louder…apparently from all the traffic when we reached  the city.

JL Hudson’s

I snoozed off and on while Mother huffed and puffed her way along the busy city streets.  Finally we reached Hudson’s, and I must say it was BIG!  Never in my entire life had I seen anything so big as this store, except maybe Mount Carmel Hospital, and I really didn’t see very well at the time!

Mother managed to get the carriage into the front door of the store, but negotiating the perfume counter with a large English Carriage was a challenge for even the most determined of mothers.  We did it, and got there in one piece too!  As we rolled through the store, nothing was broken, we only had a few bumps along the way, but Mom did great, I was so proud of her for her determination, and energy, because I was exhausted just thinking about it!

Since I didn’t have any idea why we went to this particular store, on this particular day in September,  with the exception of, it being the place to go, I was excited to find out the purpose of our adventure.  This is something I have reflected on over the many years of my life…  what is the purpose of my adventure in life?

Quickly Mother managed to get my Buggy up to the floor where all the toys were on display, and before long we were deep in thought about …toys, stuffed to be exact!    Mother stopped at one table after the other, each having lots of stuffed animal toys sitting just there for me to look at.  As  Mother was searching  each, table,  and every stuffed toy, or maybe I should say animal,  a huge crowd of ladies engulfed my buggy, and the ooh’s and awes began.  “What a beautiful baby, how old is she?” one woman asked?  “What did you name her?” asked another?  “How long were you in labor?”  yet another asked.  The questions kept coming, and Mother answered with great pride.

But on the other end of things…

It won’t surprise you when I say…..the faces were terrifying,  BIG noses,  BIG eyes, LOUD voices, and the smell of stagnant perfume just about gagged me!  They kept looking at me from all angles, like I was a strange bug or something.  I began to cry….louder,and…Louder, and…LOUDER!   Finally Mother had to excuse us, and we took a little ride around the store, just to get away.   Boy was I happy to get away from all those Looky Loos!

When things had calmed down, we took another pass at the  stuffed toy tables, and with each of these furry creatures Mother would show me,  I simply couldn’t see the fascination. Some of them were stiff, and unfriendly, some were dark and foreboding.  Finally out of clear, and total exasperation I was shown one last stuffed animal, and do you know what?  My little legs and arms started bouncing around,  and I started talking to this lanky ball of fur. Mother was so happy, I could see it on her tired, worn-out face.   At that point, before I knew what was happening, the carriage started moving, and off we went – to a place I’d never seen before – soon  I found myself sharing my carriage with a  creature covered in  brown and white fur, little black BB eyes, a tiny little brown nose and tail, long legs and arms.  Mother told me this was my new friend, and I have to say I was really excited to have him with me.  Now I wouldn’t have to be alone all night in that big room.  Oh it looked nice, it was pink and frilly, but it was big and lonely being in there all night by myself.

After much thought, I named him Teddy!

Teddy quickly became by best friend, he stayed with me all the time. Mother even allowed me to take him to the doctors when I had to go.  Teddy had floppy ears, and he would sing to me at night after everyone would go to bed.  No matter what happened,  Teddy was there for me.

One day something terrible happened!  This was after he helped me learn to eat vegetables, and walk.  Something even more horrible than eating peas, and green beans, something worse than anything I could have ever imagined!

I had competition!!!

Yep you guessed it – That Friggin’ stork dropped a bundle of  “Pain in the ass”  down the chimney!  Well, let me tell you…my world changed forever, and not for the better either!  Teddy was there through it all.  He wiped my tears, he talked me out of  dripping oatmeal all over the PIA’s head.  I’m telling you Teddy probably saved my life…more than once!

That kid didn’t stop yapping for years!  All through growing up….yap – yap – yap!  Even my parents would complain about how this kid would never stop yapping!  But what are you going to, they couldn’t send it back!

Well in the middle of all that yapping…it happened again, and once more after that!

Crap will this ever stop?  You guessed it again…another yapper!  Two more to be exact, one shortly after the other.  It exhausts me even telling this story, but somebody has to tell it.

What happened next?

In the middle of all that yapping, I had to something to keep myself busy, and distracted from the gaggle of yappers.  Lining up all my dolls, and stuffed animals, I would hold school.  Each of them would contribute to my class but the one who contributed the most was Teddy.  He must have known my need for teaching, or maybe the need for standing on a soapbox would be more accurate!  Teddy sat there like an “A” number one student, and was every teachers dream.

Later in life,  Teddy was with me through my Sweet “16” Birthday Party, through all the dances, my heart breaks,  and  my  triumphs.  Never did he turn his back on me, and he never offered advise, unless I asked him for it.  When I married he sat in the middle of our bed…this in my eyes was an act of bravery, and protection!  He was there through divorces,  marriages, and  remains with me.

Teddy has been with me all these years, remaining loyal, and trustworthy!

He is my best friend, my oldest friend, and my Treasured Friend! 

Day 19: What Happens When the Sun Goes Down?


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As an artist there are many canvases in my studio stacked off to the side or in a cubby of the large bookshelf in my studio, and many of them have been started, and left half-finished.  I have stopped at many stages of  each of them, or left them in different stages of their completion.  Some speak to me from beginning to end without any problems or glitches, some stop speaking to me shortly after they are started.  Some never speak to me again, leaving me wondering if I  should even be trying to paint at all!  As I sit here wondering if they will ever speak   again, or why am I  fooling myself thinking I’m a painter, or should I get rid of all this stuff, and reduce the clutter, it occurs to me that these paintings must have a life too!  Maybe they are busy with their own lives, just like I am busy with my family, friends, and other things that pull me away from painting!

What happens when the sun goes down, and the lights go out?  

Do the images on the paintings jump off the canvases, and play around in the studio?  Do they do their own sketches, and drawings?  After all  I  do have a studio filled with art toys to delight, and put a twinkle in the eyes of even the most childlike of artists.  When my grandkids are here visiting, the first place they go is my studio, and then it starts….. “Grandma, can we paint today? ”  or “Can we use your markers?”  Their eyes light up just talking about the possibilities,  and if that’s so, then why wouldn’t the images on my canvases want to open drawers, explore, and try the different paints, pencils, markers, and anything else they could possibly find to play with.  I can see them now, dancing to the music, and scribbling on the walls.  Here I thought one of the kids did the little scribbles that I found last week!  Are the paintings  like the toys in toy story where the doors shut, and the lights are turned off, and they come alive…  It is important to remember that..   All work and no play makes Karen a dull girl!

I’ll bet my canvases come alive!

So maybe I should take another approach to getting them to speak to me…..  Maybe if they all stood in a row, to give each other support, and courage, they would tell me what they want from me.  Or just maybe…we should all have a party…in my studio…tonight….when the paintings think I’m asleep, I’ll get up out of bed…tip toe into the party room, and yell Surprise!   Am I being way too up tight about painting?  I am a recovering perfectionist, and that zaps the spirit out of anyone… even though I know this, I fight it all the time!  Looking back, I think that’s why I like to paint intuitively, it takes the element of perfectionism out of the mix!

                         Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people.