Art School Drop-In


While I know that had I stayed at RISD way back when, I probably would’ve come away with a degree (in photography or a BFA or something else from their estimable selection of programs), today I’m pretty sure I’m a better artist than I ever could have become at that time.

I am a slow learner of things that matter. I can memorize stuff pretty easily… at least I used to when my brain cells were nice and perky, but alas they are as old as the rest of my over-the-hill body. And fer cryin’ in the kitchen, I’ve got an impressive repertoire of almost entire movies, complete with gestures and stage direction, in my head, along with all 18 minutes of Alice’s Restaurant rattling around in my brain like a spray paint can. But as time goes by it becomes apparent that those things, while fun and good drunk party tricks for my brother to use to show me off, don’t actually matter. At least not when it comes to figuring out what I want to leave after I’m gone.

I didn’t stay at RISD long enough to learn much about style, art history, composition, or any of that.  I stayed long enough to learn that my art and my creativity were so deeply buried beneath 19-year-old insecurities that I’d never find them in an environment of artifice, affectation and angst.  I created far, far better artwork before attending art school simply because I was free to explore at my own pace and following my own interest and path.

Now here I am, thirty-something years later, finally ready to face my old nemesis, myself.  It has taken THAT long of doing other stuff just to have a title on my door or to have a nametag on my shirt — to be an official member of society — while I secretly learned what creating is all about.

As I said… I’m a slow learner.

Gotcha! Or not…


Drawing visitors into my booth at art shows is tremendously difficult sometimes… in most cases it’s impossible to understand what my work is without spending a few extra seconds to step closer and look, but at a big fair with 600+ different booths, most of which are artists and craftspersons, there aren’t enough extra seconds for folks to spend.

Last year I got signs printed up:  JaguarBanner copy

which I fixed up this year to make them even more eye-catching – while my handwriting font was very personalized, it didn’t look so great, so I got ’em printed with a different font and made a few other changes. I don’t have the updated image right now to show you – trust me, it’s nicer.

The signs worked great, mostly. Lots of people saw the signs and stopped dead in their tracks.  Fantastic!  Still something held folks back, so I wound up giving a quick explanation to the ones that stopped but would not actually come close. “It’s all words,” I say… “Tiny tiny writing.” Got a lot more people interested, but after a while I felt like I was sounding like a carnival barker, which really has no place at an art show and made me feel kinda cheap.

How to bring the folks that come to these shows in close enough so they can see what my drawings and paintings are comprised of and where the poetry lies, without being loud or obnoxious?

This year I think I’ve got it: I attach large magnifiers onto a couple of pieces on a table display, to encourage viewers to step up and examine them for themselves. Once they do that, their reactions are a riot, ranging from speechlessness coupled with a raised eyebrow and looks of incredulity, to outbursts of “holy shit” and “NO WAY,” or “are you crazy?” From there many folks are hooked and want to check out other pieces to read the poems.

I still have a lot of coaxing to do, even with the new setup.  I suspect some people who stop when they read “Look Closely” are really not interested in wall art or don’t like my style at all… it’s fine to move along. But I’d hate to lose someone in a split second, not because they’re not interested, but because they don’t understand what it is that I do.

Anybody have any other suggestions?

Ketubah with a twist and a Bridal Expo??!

Ketubah with a twist and a Bridal Expo??!

Artful backgrounds often accompany words, poems, stories – simple flourishes can add atmosphere to a story, illuminated scripts kept many an artist busy in candlelit Medieval abbeys, and a good illustrator can keep a young reader’s imagination piqued.  As you can tell, my artwork blends poetry – “language art,” with pictures, colors, textures, visual elements – to create a unified whole.  The words are the art.  I’m always looking for ways to express this in different ways, whether it’s by playing with materials, media, colors, or simple light and shadow.  And on a practical note, I’m also keeping my eyes open for new ways to get my work “out there.”

I had an interesting experience a couple of months ago when I was asked to create something that incorporates a wedding proposal that would be used by a very romantic guy to ask his girlfriend to marry him…  Commissions are always a rather dicey proposition, if you’ll excuse the pun.  Art is completely subjective — where one person swoons another might shrug — so there’s no guarantee that it will be as well received by the giftee as it was conceived by either the giftor or the artist commissioned to do the work.


I loved the idea of using a piece of art to express such a momentous occasion in one’s life, and it brought to mind the Jewish tradition of a ketubah — a wedding contract, usually decorated and framed for hanging in the home. While I don’t necessarily agree with all the text that might go into one, especially extremely strict traditional ones, I believe that a piece of art that uses the couple’s own words in the image itself could become a cherished part of a family’s home and shared history.

So on February 9th, I am unveiling three new pieces of my work this weekend, at — you guessed it — a bridal expo.  I will be displaying three examples of my new work that will be available for customization with a couple’s own wedding vows or selected poetry of their choice.  Depending on the light where the art is displayed, the words can either “float” above the painting or throw moving shadows onto it.  Check out the samples here and on my website:, and look for the Wedding Vow Art link on the left.

I’ll be at the expo with Salmon Gallery which has a new wedding registry service, and with my dear friend Barb Behrmann, who helped Gordon and me create our own special day and who now has put her fantastic skills that into creating Ceremonies and Events Planning of the Finger Lakes. The expo is a new event that focuses on local artists and vendors to help folks create an absolutely unique and homegrown wedding.  It’s hosted by Trumansburg’s own Dressella’s  and promises to be a fun time, with music and giveaways.  The website for the event is and will be at Emerson Suites on the Ithaca College campus from 12-3 on Sunday, Feb. 9.  Please share with anyone you know who’s planning a big event soon!



Local press for Carol Bloomgarden’s artwork, LanguageArts


Some local press for the new year from the FingerLakes Press and

Lotus flower in glass, watercolor, ink, mirror, and paint


Matthew Arnold’s poem, “The Future” serves as the text for my Lotus on display now at Salmon Pottery Gallery. I will post a photo soon… what do you think of the poem?

A wanderer is man from his birth.
He was born in a ship
On the breast of the river of Time;
Brimming with wonder and joy
He spreads out his arms to the light,
Rivets his gaze on the banks of the stream.

As what he sees is, so have his thoughts been.
Whether he wakes,
Where the snowy mountainous pass,
Echoing the screams of the eagles,
Hems in its gorges the bed
Of the new-born clear-flowing stream;
Whether he first sees light
Where the river in gleaming rings
Sluggishly winds through the plain;
Whether in sound of the swallowing sea –
As is the world on the banks,
So is the mind of the man.

Vainly does each, as he glides,
Fable and dream
Of the lands which the river of Time
Had left ere he woke on its breast,
Or shall reach when his eyes have been closed.
Only the tract where he sails
He wots of; only the thoughts,
Raised by the objects he passes, are his.

Who can see the green earth any more
As she was by the sources of Time?
Who imagines her fields as they lay
In the sunshine, unworn by the plough?
Who thinks as they thought,
The tribes who then roam’d on her breast,
Her vigorous, primitive sons?

What girl
Now reads in her bosom as clear
As Rebekah read, when she sate
At eve by the palm-shaded well?
Who guards in her breast
As deep, as pellucid a spring
Of feeling, as tranquil, as sure?

What bard,
At the height of his vision, can deem
Of God, of the world, of the soul,
With a plainness as near,
As flashing as Moses felt
When he lay in the night by his flock
On the starlit Arabian waste?
Can rise and obey
The beck of the Spirit like him?

This tract which the river of Time
Now flows through with us, is the plain.
Gone is the calm of its earlier shore.
Border’d by cities and hoarse
With a thousand cries is its stream.
And we on its breast, our minds
Are confused as the cries which we hear,
Changing and shot as the sights which we see.

And we say that repose has fled
For ever the course of the river of Time.
That cities will crowd to its edge
In a blacker, incessanter line;
That the din will be more on its banks,
Denser the trade on its stream,
Flatter the plain where it flows,
Fiercer the sun overhead.
That never will those on its breast
See an ennobling sight,
Drink of the feeling of quiet again.

But what was before us we know not,
And we know not what shall succeed.

Haply, the river of Time –
As it grows, as the towns on its marge
Fling their wavering lights
On a wider, statelier stream –
May acquire, if not the calm
Of its early mountainous shore,
Yet a solemn peace of its own.

And the width of the waters, the hush
Of the grey expanse where he floats,
Freshening its current and spotted with foam
As it draws to the Ocean, may strike
Peace to the soul of the man on its breast –
As the pale waste widens around him,
As the banks fade dimmer away,
As the stars come out, and the night-wind
Brings up the stream
Murmurs and scents of the infinite sea.


(photo of piece to follow)

Trying out my new etching tool at tomorrow’s Open Studio.


August 4, First Saturday Open House

I’m ready to try out my new etching tool and diamond bits.  I’m so excited to get back into it after my wrist surgery.  All this time has been spent dreaming and molding some new ideas into (somewhat) formal plans for new pieces… now it’s time to get going.  The shadow poems have been flying off the shelves – Mary Ellen at Salmon Pottery just sold another one today, even before I had a chance to take a picture of it.  I need to get that new drill GOING!!!!


Annual Artists Market downtown on the waterfront!  I will be sharing a booth with Mary Ellen Salmon of Salmon Pottery (  Please come!  Music, food, wine, sweets, and, of course, artwork from many of the best of Ithaca’s artists.


Show this Friday, 7/27 in Ithaca


Annual Artists Market downtown on the waterfront!  I will be sharing a booth with Mary Ellen Salmon of Salmon Pottery (  Please come!  Music, food, wine, sweets, and, of course, artwork from many of the best of Ithaca’s artists.


Time to heal and just breathe the colors


About six months now since I started developing wrist pain… right wrist pain. And I can’t quite recall, but I am now thinking that it was around that time that I started really getting excited about creating the shadow poems. Writing poems into glass with a Dremel tool so that the shadows can be read against a painted background under direct light. Fine lines etched into clear glass using a high-speed, somewhat unwieldy rotary tool. With my right hand.

Also around that time, I experienced right wrist strain after chopping kindling, which I also love to do. It wasn’t a sudden pain – just more of an ache. But it never really healed, despite ice and immobilization. Well, not complete immobilization, because I had to keep working on new pieces. I stopped using the Dremel, but continued pottery and micrography and painting. Still didn’t get better. Then I stopped throwing pots, but contined micrography and painting. Saw a wrist specialist and told him I thought I injured it originally chopping kindling; he looked at the inconclusive MRI and agreed that what he did see – inflammation – was consistent with that type of injury and that there was likely a cartilage tear that was just not showing up.

Ah, denial. I asked if it could have been caused by my art – he didn’t think what I was doing could’ve caused a tear.

Surgery went better than expected, according to the doc – no tear. Just old injury or injuries that never healed, with adhesions that he cleaned up. Put a gigantic nonremovable splint on me with instructions to come back in 3 weeks. But for me, the news is actually bad, meaning that it’s still very possible that the damage was done from repeated strain. I tried to explain exactly what kind of strain I had been putting on my hand, but got the sense he wasn’t really getting it.

So here I am. Waiting and wondering. I was so hoping that it really was a tear that would point directly to trauma; instead I’ve got to wait and see if I will be able to safely pick up that Dremel again. Or throw plates. Or write my ittybittywriting.

The art of the sale, or the sale of the art?


Despite my best efforts to sabotage myself as a successful artist, I sold another piece of my artwork today.


Today was the second of the First Saturdays, a new venture to spread the joy of the Greater Ithaca Art Trail to the rest of the year. Because I’m technically “off the map” I don’t get a lot of visitors to my studio; hence I show most of my work at Salmon Pottery in Trumansburg the majority of the year. Last month I had no visitors, but that was OK… nobody had really heard of First Saturday Open Studio yet.  It was a good time to work quietly, or not-so-quietly, in the studio, working on a number of pieces in various stages of completion.  The studio was pretty much a disaster, and it was a good excuse to straighten up a bit.


For today, I pulled a few pieces off the shelves at Salmon to show in my studio; I realized that my walls are looking rather bare.  My new exploration into shadow art — etching poems into glass so that you can read the shadows in direct light — has been so successful that I’m having a bit of a hard time keeping things on the wall!  So, I needed more finished examples in the studio.

Two visitors came in on this bright and blustery day, and we had a lovely time (well, I did… I guess I shouldn’t speak for them) talking about art and travel and birds… I introduced them to my and Gordon’s artwork, and we kept talking while they looked around.  When the woman asked about pieces that are not for sale, I commented on the fact that there are a couple of pieces in the studio that do have NFS on the label… not at all thinking that what she was asking was “why don’t these have price tags?” and “how much are these pieces?”

Um, duh? The Art of the Sale class offered by the Ithaca Community Arts Partnership has been something I’ve been intending on taking, but for the same reason I hadn’t thought about putting my own price tags on my art or printing out the text for all of the pieces on the wall, I haven’t gotten organized enough to sign up.

Then, despite my complete inability to sell myself or my work, I sold Bronte’s Tree, a central image with the writing on the treetrunk on the back side of the glass so that the poem How Still, How Happy was written backwards.  I remembered where the sales book is, and miracle of miracles I remembered the password to my Square account so that I could accept a credit card.  I was hoping with all my will she would not ask what poem was written into the piece because I kept drawing a blank, and I had left the display text at Salmon Pottery.  She didn’t ask, but I promised to mail them the text.

She even granted me visitation rights, although I think that’s going a little over the edge… maybe a bit.