Charles Stonewall: Artist

"See with fresh eyes!"

---Charles Stonewall, artist

I'm interrupting my summer-blog-break with this necessary blog post: my recent Easton Irregular article (July-August 2017) featuring the local artist, Charles Stonewall.  You can pick up copies around town, at Just Around the Corner, and the Public Market.  Or, read it here on my blog!

"Infinite Evaluation" photograph by Charles Stonewall

"Infinite Evaluation" photograph by Charles Stonewall

The photographs of Charles Stonewall are striking, sensitive, and brimming with suggested narrative. Whether the photos are portraits, photojournalism, or performance-inspired scenes, they all share a powerful emotional element and a strong composition, making use of exaggerated contrasts of light and shadow.

"Martha, the Salt of the Earth," photograph by Charles Stonewall

"Martha, the Salt of the Earth," photograph by Charles Stonewall

Stonewall was born and raised in South Side, Easton, in an impoverished environment. Despite the many challenges of his childhood, he was lucky to have a loving ally, his grandmother. She bought him his first camera when he was 14. This started him on his life’s journey as a photographer, and he has enjoyed many successes along the way, not the least of which includes one of his photographs in an exhibit at the Louvre, in Paris! Stonewall is a strong advocate of the power of possibilities, perseverance, and resilience.

In 1980 and 1981, Stonewall was responsible for the first ever black artist exhibitions in the Lehigh Valley. He and other artists formed a group called the Cultural Enrichment Committee, the intent of which was to provide a voice for those who were underrepresented and often ignored. The exhibitions took place in what is now the Wells Fargo Bank in the Centre Square in downtown Easton.

The poster for the 1981 art exhibit entitled "Black Art" featuring photography by Charles Stonewall; the Cultural Enrichment Committee that Stonewall had formed with other artists to provide a voice for underrepresented artists sponsored the exhibit.

The poster for the 1981 art exhibit entitled "Black Art" featuring photography by Charles Stonewall; the Cultural Enrichment Committee that Stonewall had formed with other artists to provide a voice for underrepresented artists sponsored the exhibit.

Stonewall moved to the Midwest in 1998 and attended the Kansas City Art Institute, which helped him to be able to “see with fresh eyes”. Traveling to the Midwest taught him about the benefits of being daring enough to step outside of one’s comfort zone and to believe in oneself.

He returned to the Lehigh Valley in 2013, where he lives and works today.

"Life's Opera," photograph by Charles Stonewall

"Life's Opera," photograph by Charles Stonewall

Currently, Stonewall is working on a series that he describes as conceptual art. These are photographs of organic forms, like flowers and leaves, and can be interpreted as inner landscapes. “What do I look like inside?” he asks, as part of his motivation for this series. “I believe there is great beauty inside. Hopefully it triggers a thought with the viewer, and they can start to discover their own inner beauty…We are complicated people!”

Pick up your July-August copy of the Easton Irregular at the Easton Public Market!

Pick up your July-August copy of the Easton Irregular at the Easton Public Market!


Charles Stonewall’s work can be viewed this summer at the an exhibition in Bethlehem, PA:

The Bethlehem Fine Arts Commission is pleased to present the Fourth Biennial Self-Portrait Exhibition entitled “Expressions: A Self-Portrait Show" featuring known artists, as well as prominent citizens in the local community who have agreed to take on the challenge of a self-portrait. The portraits will be on display from July 12 through August 29 at the Rotunda Gallery at Town Hall, 10 East Church Street, Bethlehem, PA 18018.

I'm going to paint in Italy!

Last blog post for the summer...

a painting of Civita Castellana by Corot, 1826

a painting of Civita Castellana by Corot, 1826

A year ago I wrote this blog post: "Dreaming of Italy."  And ever since then, I have been fantasizing about it, without really believing that it would happen.  I was swept up by a fierce longing to travel to Italy, and I was particularly excited about this program for artists: the JSS in Civita Summer Art School and Residency in Italy, which I learned about from the Savvy Painter Podcast.  (The residency is in Civita Castellana, the countryside where Corot painted.)  So, a few months ago I applied for their annual merit-based scholarship.  Although I didn't get that scholarship, I did get a partial-scholarship to the residency program, which was enough to make my dream a reality!  Two weeks painting in Italy!  

So...I bought my plane ticket!  I will leave on July 9th and stay for two weeks.

I have a new passport!  Il mio passaporto nuovo.


I'm so excited!!!  I've never been to Europe!  I haven't been on an airplane in maybe 12 years or so.  Actually, I'm feeling a little scared.  Sto cercando di imparare l'italiano.  I'm using the duolingo app on my phone, which is pretty helpful.  I'm getting pretty good about saying things about elephants: L'elefante non scrive il libro.  (The elephant doesn't write the book.)  Will I use this knowledge in Civita?  Io non so.

L'elefante vuole bere il caffè.

L'elefante vuole bere il caffè.

Also, I have been labeling things around the house to help learn some Italian.  Il gatto, i fiori, la buca delle lettere...

The JSS team strongly recommends a French easel, and mine was in sad condition.  I was anxious about spending money on a new easel after buying the expensive plane ticket.  Luckily my neighbor, the artist Ken Kewley, loaned me his easel.  I took it out for a test-drive a couple weeks ago at Clear Spring Farm.  And I love it!  I'm so excited to use it in Italy.  I'm sooooooooooooooooooo excited to go to Italy!!!!

“We all have the colors needed to make beautiful paintings.”  --Ken Kewley

“We all have the colors needed to make beautiful paintings.”  --Ken Kewley

The easel comes with an adorable little wooden palette that folds up perfectly inside it.  However, Ken's palette had too much old paint on it for me to use.  I looked everywhere online to order a replacement and couldn't find one.  So.... my husband made me one!  He used a regular wooden palette from and cut it down to size, and put little hinges on it.  I gave it a few coats of linseed oil, so it should be ready to use soon.  It's perfect!

I love this folding palette!  Thank you Ian for making it for me!  And Happy Anniversary!  (13 years yesterday!)  Mio marito è meraviglioso.

I love this folding palette!  Thank you Ian for making it for me!  And Happy Anniversary!  (13 years yesterday!)  Mio marito è meraviglioso.

After my residency ends on the 24th of July, I'm going to take myself to Florence for a couple of days.  I think I'm just going to sit on a bench by the Arno and sigh romantically at Italian pigeons...  

But, perhaps some of my blog readers have experienced Florence and wish to offer me some advice or suggestions about what to see?  If so, please do so in the comments below!

Random photograph of Florence I found on the internet.  Sigh...

Random photograph of Florence I found on the internet.  Sigh...

I'm so excited to go to Italy!!!!!! I can barely hold myself together and act normal... I'm not sure I'm pulling it off.  Anyway, this is my last blog post for awhile because I'm taking a break for the summer.  I'm posting this on Tuesday instead of Wednesday because I'm about to go camping for the rest of the week and won't have access to a computer.  I hope you have enjoyed my blog so far, and have a happy summer.  

My blog will resume in September!



Helping Patti

"Kindness is gladdening the hearts of those who are traveling the dark journey with us."

--Henri Frédéric Amiel, 19th century Swiss moral philosopher and poet

Beautiful charcoal sketch of Patti Bloss by artist Paul McGinn, 18x24"  $30.00  

(All prices are suggested; make an offer!)

I really love this charcoal portrait of Patti Bloss.  I have known Patti for ten years, ever since I moved to Easton.  She frequently modeled at the Thursday Night Figure Drawing community sessions at Lafayette College.  (I wrote a little more about my early experiences drawing there in my blog post "Letters to a Young Artist.")  Patti was also the art monitor for the group, and now, many years later, I am her "assistant!"  Patti also modeled at the Baum School of Art where I took figure drawing classes with Adriano Farinella.  

"Nude Drawing" Lovely figure sketch by Mary Millan Klunk $50  (from a Baum figure class)

Patti is a gentle, graceful, and sweet soul.  She is well-known and much loved in the Lehigh Valley art community, since she has modeled for decades for artists and classes at local colleges in the area.  So last year, when we found out she had liver cancer, everyone was very sad.  Over the past year, Patti has struggled with this cancer and the additional financial burdens it imposed.  So, I thought I would rally the art community together (I created a facebook group, "Helping Patti," and I worked to organize an "Art Fundraiser for Patti Bloss."  The reception was last week, and it was a huge success!  

Patti holding two donated paintings: "A Pocketful of Roses" oil on board by Li-hsien Price $200 and also a figure painting by Donna Needs (sold).  

Over fifty artists generously donated work to sell, and 100% of the money went to Patti to help with medical and living expenses.  That night, we raised about $3,000 for Patti!  I couldn't believe it!  I had never done anything like this before, and I was very anxious that people wouldn't come, but happily, I was wrong!  In fact, I was so overwhelmed by how happy I felt the next day, when I had time to reflect on the event.  It feels so wonderful to be able to make a difference for someone, and to be part of a community effort like this.  

Over the past few days, I have continued to receive checks for Patti, with kind notes and anecdotes about her early modeling days, and how she influenced many artists.  No matter what happens, the best part of all of this is that Patti will know she is loved and appreciated by her many friends in the art community!

Patti gives me a hug at the end of the night!

Patti gives me a hug at the end of the night!

There are still many amazing pieces of art for sale.  I put some of my favorites here in this blog post, and you can see the rest in my facebook album: "Art Fund Raiser for Patti Bloss."  To buy one, just email:  Payment can be made through Patti's Paypal account:, or checks written out to Patti Bloss and mailed to Lauren Kindle Studio, 7B North Bank Street, Easton, PA, 18042.   You must pay for your own shipping if necessary.  Thank you!!

"Blue Clouds" 24x35" oil painting by Gina Piazza  $200

Here is my painting from the show.  It's still for sale: $150.  "Coreopsis Field 1" oil on board, 8x10" Read about my process in this blog post: Summer Landscapes.

Here is my painting from the show.  It's still for sale: $150.  "Coreopsis Field 1" oil on board, 8x10"

Read about my process in this blog post: Summer Landscapes.

"Untitled" by Ed Kerns, 2 feet by 7 feet!

Read my blog post about Ed Kerns: "Synchronicity and Art."

Devyn Leonor-Briggs: Artist

There's still a place for beauty in art.”

- Devyn Leonor-Briggs

"La Colomba", acrylic, oil and pastel on canvas, 48x60, 2016

 “I want to surround myself with color, beauty, culture, and pattern, creating a world for myself,” Devyn explains, gesturing excitedly, her dark eyes shining. We are sitting together in Terra Café, a coffee shop near my studio, talking about art. I’m mesmerized by this young woman’s energy and obvious love for what she does.

Devyn is a painter and also a ceramic and fiber artist. She has a studio at the Banana Factory in Bethlehem, the city where she has lived most of her life. Currently, Devyn is in a place of transition in her life, having just gotten married and bought a house. But ideally, her studio schedule would involve a morning routine, with 5-6 hours of uninterrupted solitude. A lot of her work is “self-conscious” in its early stages, so it’s important that she has privacy when she works.

Devyn’s paintings are large, bright, and saturated with color. Some paintings are abstract, while others are representational, with mythic and sacred themes. The subject matter and the jeweled tones and patterns remind me of stained-glass windows or ancient Byzantine mosaics. All of her paintings are lush, layered, glowing objects of beauty.

“I’ve been warned that beauty is a ‘bad word’ in the art world,” I say, sipping my kombucha tea. It is true that ever since I started pursuing art seriously, I have been cautioned against “Beauty” many times by well-meaning, more-experienced artists.

Devyn just laughs at this idea. “I know what resonates with me,” she says with confidence. “I’m informed by those things…but it’s not about making it pretty, it’s about making it my own. It’s about telling my story.”

Devyn’s story is that of a rich cultural heritage. She is American, her mother is Colombian, and her father is both African American and Jamaican. These cultures provide an endless source of inspiration to Devyn, and she uses fabric and textiles as a “doorway” into them. You can see these colorful fabrics collaged onto the paintings as well as added onto the ceramic vessels that she makes.

"Adorned Vessel in Yellow", ceramic, yarn and beads, 2015

Devyn explains that her love of textiles was instilled early in life, by her Colombian grandmother, with whom she spent a lot of quality time. Her grandmother was always very crafty and especially proficient in needlepoint.

“Whatever she could get her hands on to make beautiful, she did,” Devyn says proudly, sipping her own kombucha tea. I close my eyes and try to imagine the older woman sewing with her granddaughter, and slowly decorating the world…

“Art to me is a vehicle that elevates,” Devyn insists. “It makes you step out of those dark places. It all comes down to the space I surround myself with. I create a space you can dwell in.”

"Eva”, oil pastel and acrylic on canvas, 24x36, 2015

I look at her painting, “Eva”, which is oil pastel and acrylic on canvas, 24x36 inches. A young Latina woman stands solemnly beneath a crimson dome, surrounded by a deep blue sky. She stands in an abundant garden of green plants, white calla lilies, and bird-of-paradise flowers. An earthen vessel occupies the bottom of the painting near the woman’s stomach, perhaps alluding to her womb. A white dove perches on the rim of the vessel, and both the dove and the woman have golden halos. The painting overflows with life and beauty, and to me, it’s an assertion of the sacredness of life and creativity, and the dignity of womankind. Perhaps this woman is Devyn herself, and the garden around her is the art that she creates, those dwelling spaces decorated with the patterns and colors she loves.

"Jester”, collage, painted paper and acrylic on canvas, 12x12, 2016

Her artist statement says it perfectly:

For me, my art is who I am. It's a natural extension of my personality. And it tells my story. It's the conglomeration of everything that resonates in my spirit: the colors, flavors, rhythms, textures, and stories that make my heart swell, that allow me sit back with my eyes closed and thank God for the ability to sense beauty in the world around me. I hope that the joy I get from making is contagious enough that it touches you; that the hours I spend in the studio don't just feed my soul, but yours too. There's still a place for beauty in art. There's still a place for objects that remind us of where we came from, that challenge us to understand who we are and why we are, that help us step outside the everyday and breathe deeply of the grace that is our every day.

I wrote this blog post for the "Artist Profile" article for the June 2017 issue of The Easton Irregular.

I wrote this blog post for the "Artist Profile" article for the June 2017 issue of The Easton Irregular.

 Learn more about Devyn at


Paintings of Beautiful Men: A Beginner's Guide

There are so many images of beautiful men in art.  Motivated, of course, by a lofty, pure, and noble respect for Art, I set forth to compile a good selection of beautiful men for today's blog post.  It may be overwhelming at first, so I have helpfully sorted the men into categories.  You're welcome.

1.  Beautiful Men Who Dance, Sing, and Row Boats

"Narcissus," painting by Gyula Benczúr, 1880

"The Impassioned Singer" by Giorgione, Oil on canvas, 102 x 78 cm Galleria Borghese, Rome 1510

Self portrait by Jeremy Lipking

2.  Beautiful Men Who Don't Like to Wear Shirts

"Man Putting On His Shirt" painting by John Koch

"Vincent" oil painting by Jacob Collins, 1998

detail of an oil painting by Kate Lehman

3.  Bearded, Brooding, Beautiful Men*

*Many of these can be cross-referenced in category #5, "Artist Men."

"Introspect" oil on linen, by Aaron Westerberg

Khari 2011 - painting by Sean Cheetham

Self Portrait by Leon Bonnat 1885

Self Portrait by Leon Bonnat 1885

painting by Ilia Efimovich Repin, 1884 (painting of his friend, the author Garshin)

Self portrait by Travis Schlaht

3B. (subcategory of 3) Bearded, Brooding, Beautiful Men With Dogs

"Gina and Cristiano" by Isabella Watling

"Me and Lu" painting by Aaron Westerberg (Self portrait, oil on canvas)

4.  Men Being Beautiful Amidst Flowers

4B. (subcategory of 4): Men Who Try (Unsuccessfully) to Hide Their Beauty Behind Cacti

painting by Robin F. Williams

"The Gardeners," painting by Robin F. Williams  (sorry I know I'm repeating this painting from a previous post--I just really love it!)

5.  Artist Men*

*Often these can be cross-referenced with #3, the Brooding, Bearded Type

Self portrait by Warren Chang, oil on canvas

Self Portrait by Eliseu Visconti, 1902

Self Portrait with Palette, by Jacob Collins, Oil on canvas

Well, that about wraps it up for today.  Thanks for reading this week's blog post.  I certainly enjoyed writing it.

Now I'm going to go take a cold shower.


detail of a painting by Gustave Courbet #swoon

(he definitely used himself as a model)

Further Reading:

Men: Beautiful Objects or Humans With Feelings?: an old blog post of mine

My Pinterest Board: Beautiful Men:  many more paintings along this theme

Men In Western Art Who Are So Beautiful It Has Made Them Sleepy: I Loooove this!

In Tall Cotton, Bitch

"Who I think you think I am..."

a three minute conversation with quilt artist, Chawne Kimber

Work-in-progress on the "Bitch" quilt... 

Work-in-progress on the "Bitch" quilt... 

Yesterday afternoon, I met Chawne at a local cafe to ask her to explain the title of her show.  I also asked her about the word "Bitch."  You can listen to it, or read the transcription below.

LAUREN KINDLE:  Hello, Chawne Kimber.

CHAWNE KIMBER:  Hello, Lauren Kindle.  How are you?

LK:  I'm having coffee with you at Cosmic Cup.

CK:  Uh huh.  I've got a "Dirty Chai" here.

LK:  I've got an espresso.  So, tell me about the title of our show, "In Tall Cotton."

CK:  "In Tall Cotton..."  Well it's a phrase that was used back in the day when you talked about where you were in the harvest season of your farm.  And you're "in tall cotton" when it's about time to go out there and start picking.  And it's typically interpreted as a happy moment in time.  It wasn't really happy for my ancestors since it was a heavy work time.  So it's that sort of dual notion that I'm going after here.

LK:  So nowadays, like what would be an appropriate time to say "we're in tall cotton."   How would you use that?

CK:  Well, if you just won the lottery you're "in tall cotton."

LK:  Ok.

CK:  It's a huge, lucky time.  You're about to reap what you sowed before, in a positive way.

LK:  Right, ok.  so that's an expression we don't use a lot up in the North.

CK:  Not really, no

LK:  Why did you choose to use that as the title for this show?

CK:  Um, well, 'cause it has the word cotton in it, if we want to be really dumb.  But, no really, so...I explore these dual notions of identity in the work that I do, and I think I kind of touch upon both pieces in terms of my identity as a person, my ancestry is on one side, but then I live a privileged life.

LK:  All right...and let's quick segue into your other quilt, with the word "Bitch" on it.  tell me about that word.

CK:  Oh awesome.  So "bitch" is one of those terms that we're trying to reclaim as women, and keep the power to ourselves.  So recently someone told me online that "bitch" is actually "Babe in total control of herself" and I've never heard that before, and it isn't quite my definition of what a bitch is.  And I just think that a bitch can be a really positive thing where you're strong and you stand up for yourself in the right moments of time, doing exactly the right thing, not hurting too many people too much.  But it also can be an extremely negative thing.  Again, it's sort of this spectrum and a dual notion that comes from that word.  So, it's part of my series of "Who I think you think I am." And I do think that some people think I'm a postive bitch and a negative bitch.  And it's all good.

LK:  Thank you so much for your time.  I hope that a lot of people will come on Friday night.

CK:  Yay!

LK:  So, I'll see you then!

CK:  See ya!

Chawne and me, being silly outside the cafe.

Chawne and me, being silly outside the cafe.


"In Tall Cotton: Expressions of My Self" will be open to the public this Memorial Day Weekend.  Opening reception Friday night, 6-10 pm, at Lauren Kindle Studio, 7B North Bank Street, Easton, PA.  The show will also be open Saturday, Sunday, and Monday, 10-3.  Don't miss it!!

For further reading, check out my recent blog post: Chawne Kimber, Quilt Artist.

Paintings of Mothers

 "I love you. You're the best mommy (and artist) ever in the universe. Xoxo xoxo Love, Nell.

P.S. Hug me next time you see me."

--recent love note from my 10-year old daughter

"Mère et son bébé," painting by Eugène Carrière

Happy Belated Mother's Day!  To celebrate, I am sharing some of my favorite mother-and-child paintings from my pinterest board, Mother and Child.  I didn't include the famous ones (notably, Mary Cassatt) because I wanted to highlight some less-familiar paintings.

"Rest," painting by Anna Nordgren

Honestly, I didn't really have a great mother's day myself.  I spent most of the weekend working on cleaning out my mother-in-law's house (she passed away 3 months ago) and it was emotionally difficult.  I tried to empty out the clothes in her closet, but I spent a lot of the time just sitting in the closet and crying.

"The Laundress," painting by Honoré Daumier

"The Laundress," painting by Honoré Daumier

Being a mom is hard.  I'm really struggling right now, trying to keep all my "balls in the air," and often forgetting important things, and getting overwhelmed.  I recently had a conversation with a local artist about being a parent, and I found myself wondering why I had chosen to become a mother in the first place.  It's just so hard.  I'm not sure I put all that much thought into it at the time; I was young and eager to participate in life, and I guess that's why...

"Street Crossing," painting by Zoey Frank

Maybe it's not all that important why I became a mom.  The fact is, I get a lot of pleasure from the experience.  It's basically chaos-saturated-in-love.  Plus, my family gives me a lot of ideas for themes for paintings.  (Like my storytime sketches.)  And also, I get a lot of cuddles...

"Madonna of the Cotton Fields," painting by Dame Laura Knight

I'm grateful that I have had such loving mothers in my life.  My mother-in-law fiercely encouraged my dream to be an artist and she modeled a low-stress, hands-off parenting approach.  And my own mother continues to support me every day.  She is truly the Queen of Unconditional Love.  So, I feel very lucky.

"La Mère," a painting by Loïs Mailou Jones

Plus, my kids really love me.  I mean, it's hard to believe how much they love me!  It's so wonderful.  I'm often humbled when I find little love notes like this one:

Thank you to the mothers and grandmothers in my life.  My debt of gratitude has no end!

For further reading/ art-viewing:

Mother and Child, my Pinterest Board filled with my favorite paintings on this theme

Finding Balance, my attempts to reconcile art and motherhood from a blog post last year

Thoughts on Perfection and Motherhood, one of my first blog posts

Baby Sketches

A Weekend of Art

"There is nothing more important in painting now than standing in our landscape with strength and honesty."

--Sean Mount

Epochal Violence #6. Oil on canvas. 50x36. 2017, by Sean Mount.

As a confirmed introvert, it has taken me a few days to recover from a very social and exciting weekend!  I was invited by my old and dear friend, the artist Graham Preston, to participate in a group art show called "This'n'That," at the Prallsville Mills in Stockton, New Jersey.  (You can read more extensively about my connection with Graham in this blog post from last year: "Housewife on Fire.")

Here is a photo of Graham and me, in front of my paintings.  We have been friends since high school!  #oldfriends #artfriends

Here is a photo of Graham and me, in front of my paintings.  We have been friends since high school!  #oldfriends #artfriends

One of the best parts about participating was getting to meet so many fantastic and interesting artists.  There were more than I can describe here, but I'll mention a few that I really connected with.  First, the wonderful Pat Lambe helped me hang my art on Wednesday.  What a nice guy!  

Then I met very cool, spunky lady named Lauren (what a great name!) and after we were talking for a little while I realized she was The Lauren.  Lauren Rosenthal, the one my good friend and art-collaborator, Kate Brandes, has interviewed, and is part of our Intersections project.  (read awesome interview)  She has a piece my local friends might recognize at the Nurture Nature Center in Easton.  I pretty much flipped out when I realized who she was!  Later that night there was a dance party, and Lauren and I danced a lot.  A LOT.  Like, my body was in pain the next morning.  We danced with another artist-Lauren, Lauren Johnson.  #laurenartists #somanylaurens

Here's my favorite Lauren Johnson painting:

"Pulling Together Your Paintings with Underwear'" #sillytitles #underwear #laurenjohnson

I also made friends with artists Megan Moriarty and Andrew Wilkinson and Cayley Plutnick and Sean Mount.  I hope to feature some of their art and thoughts about the art-making process in future blog posts, as well as some of the other artists that I may not have gotten a chance to meet.  The event was so busy!

So...I was just dancing my butt of with a bunch of Laurens late on Saturday night when... (trumpet music)...I sold a painting!  Hooray!  An elegant woman named Michele bought it, and it turned out her husband is an artist I have been admiring for awhile: Rye Tippet.  So, I got to meet him in real-life, which felt thrilling!  Here is the painting I sold:

"Woman, Control Yourself!" oil on board, 8x10"   (I put all my oyster paintings here.)

I'm going to end this blog post with another painting by Sean Mount.  When I looked at this portrait, I felt very emotional, and sort of sad.  It's so tender and full of love.

"Mother" oil painting by Sean Mount

"Mother" oil painting by Sean Mount

I will leave you with this quotation from Sean Mount's artist statement, which I really loved, and copied into my sketchbook:

"I hope to meet the gaze of America and affirm that it is coyly enthralled by atavism amidst the static of technology and globalism.  There is nothing more important in painting now than standing in our landscape with strength and honesty."

Chawne Kimber: Quilt Artist

"It has to be timeless." 

--Chawne Kimber

May 2017 Artist Profile in the Easton Irregular

"Cotton Sophisticate" by Chawne Kimber.  This and others will be in the upcoming show: In Tall Cotton: Expressions of My Self

“In Essence, I Am A Sophisticated Cotton Picker.”

These words are sewn in large block letters across the bottom of the super-colorful quilt, “Cotton Sophisticate”, created by Easton quilt artist, Chawne Kimber. The quotation comes from Eartha Kitt’s autobiography—a summation of her life growing up in south Georgia. Kimber’s own southern roots influence the quilts she makes. “All of my work in cotton is a call-back to my ancestry in slavery,” Kimber says. “Through the cultivation of cotton in rural Alabama, some of my ancestors (unwillingly) participated in the building of the United States,” Kimber writes in her artist statement. “Cotton has been central in the lives of the women of my family—from picking to ginning to sewing, with quilting emerging as the main mode of self-expression available.”

Like many of Kimber’s quilts, “Cotton Sophisticate” interprets traditional quilting forms in a fresh, improvisational style. It is united by color, full of life, and thought provoking. Kimber wants the viewer to think about how cotton is manufactured today, mostly under terrible working conditions. When making “Cotton Sophisticate”, Kimber actively chose to use US-made fabric, where there is some guarantee of fair labor conditions.


“Almost everything I do is in reaction to something going on in the world or in my life,” Kimber remarks. Sometimes she uses the medium to respond to current race-related social justice issues, such as “The One for Eric G”. This quilt is mostly black, constructed of various black-patterned fabrics, with the words “I can’t breathe” sewn in large block letters down its length. Those were the last words of Eric Garner, the African American man who was killed by a police officer in 2014 after being put in a chokehold. “I can’t breathe” has since become a chilling slogan, protesting the deaths of many unarmed African Americans.

"The One for Eric G"

Responding to social issues is crucial, but Kimber stresses the importance of working slowly. Responding too quickly to an incident can result in appropriation. “It has to be timeless,” she insists. “What are the things that can be separated from a moment in time?” Of course, the requirements of making a quilt naturally impose this slowness, as a typical quilt can take about two years to complete!

"Autumn Is Wistful"

“Autumn Is Wistful” is a more personal quilt than some. This quilt is an example of a technique preceding an idea. Reverse appliqué is a technique that involves cutting away at a fabric to reveal a shape appliquéd underneath. In this case, the shapes are words that form a sort of wistful poem, an ode to an idyllic memory of the South, which cannot be retrieved—

“...and I want the sweet glances and I want the sun on my face and I want the grass on my skin…”

Sadly, along with all those comforting things described in the quilt, there is a close-mindedness and intolerance in the culture of the South that keeps it forever unattainable. At least, that is the experience of Autumn, Kimber’s transgendered friend who finds that she cannot return to the home of her childhood and be accepted for who she is.

When you look at many of Kimber’s quilts, you see some “self portraits”, and they can be brutal, often incorporating an insulting or upsetting word, such as bitch. “I’m giving you who I think you think I am,” Kimber explains. In a sense, she takes away the power of the insult by claiming it first, and stitching it into her quilt. “My intent is to start a conversation,” Kimber adds. “What are you willing to engage in when looking at a piece of art?”



Chawne Kimber’s quilts are powerful. They can start uncomfortable conversations, challenge stereotypes, and question social norms. You might even find yourself wondering what exactly is the nature of a quilt, anyway? But Kimber insists that, despite everything, her quilts are still utilitarian.

“They’re warm,” she says, with a mischievous smile.


You can see more quilts on Kimber’s blog, “Completely Cauchy.”

Coming soon:

In Tall Cotton: Expressions of My Self, a show featuring some of Chawne Kimber’s quilts, will take place over the Memorial Day Weekend at Lauren Kindle Studio: 7 N. Bank Street, Easton, PA. Opening reception will be Friday, May 26 from 6-8pm, in conjunction with the new Easton Fourth Friday event: Easton Out Loud. Hours to view the show Saturday, May 27 thru Monday, May 29 are 10am-3pm. Visit for more information.

Coming soon:

“In Tall Cotton,: Expressions of My Self” a show featuring some of Chawne Kimber’s quilts.  They will be on display over the Memorial Day Weekend at Lauren Kindle Studio: 7 N. Bank Street, Easton PA.  Opening reception will be Friday May 26, 6-8 pm, in conjunction with “Easton Fourth Friday.”  The Studio-Gallery will be open to the public 10-3 Saturday 27-Monday 29th.

Further Reading:

My friend and fellow artist, Kate Brandes, published this interview with Chawne Kimber on her blog.

Other blogs have written about Chawne.  Check them out!

Hunter's Design Studio, "Important Quilts: Meeting Chawne Kimber"

Women Arts, "The Colorful, Radical Quilts of Chawne Kimber"

Modern Quilt Guild, "The Beautiful Mind of Chawne Kimber"

Baby Sketches

"Heaven lies about us in our infancy!"

--William Wordsworth

Today I was going through an old sketchbook of drawings I did when my children were babies.  I remember sitting blissfully on the couch for hours, content to have a pencil and sketchbook at hand while my baby slept on my lap.  Of course, there are more drawings of Nell, because she is the oldest.  When Morgan was a baby, I also had an energetic three-year-old watching me draw!  But I'm still surprised at the quantity of drawings I made back then, and of course, deeply moved by these precious memories.  When I look at these drawings, I can't believe my children have grown so much!  It really does feel as if life is too short, and the passage of time far too relentless.  Sketching is one small way to hold onto a moment and keep it forever.

FullSizeRender (9).jpg

note: This is definitely dated incorrectly in the sketch.  She didn't have curls in 2007.  I think I just forgot the year changed to 2008.

Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting:

The Soul that rises with us, our life's Star,

Hath had elsewhere its setting,

And cometh from afar:

Not in entire forgetfulness,

And not in utter nakedness,

But trailing clouds of glory do we come

From God, who is our home:

Heaven lies about us in our infancy!


--William Wordsworth

Intimations of Immortality 


The Lady, or the Tiger?

"...with all the intensity of the savage blood transmitted to her through long lines of wholly barbaric ancestors..."

--The Lady, or the Tiger?  a short story by Frank R. Stockton


For the past year, I have been dreaming about tigers.  Or perhaps it's only one tiger, the same one that comes into each dream...?  As a result, I've been cultivating a painting in my mind, or perhaps a series of paintings.  Using Pinterest, I have been collecting other artists' work that strikes me as touching the spirit of my dreams.  At some point, I realized I was going to have to do a self-portrait, possibly because I had such a strong resistance towards the idea, as described in "Intersections," my collaborative art project with fellow artist, Kate Brandes.  

My resistance was so strong, it had to be explored.  I looked at a lot of self portraits by Julie Heffernan.  I found them to be brave: not only were they nudes, but there was a deeper nakedness going on here, a nakedness of the soul, of the rich, complex jungle of a woman's heart.  "Self Portrait as a Bird Feeder" was the one I kept returning to.

"Self Portrait as Bird Feeder," oil painting by Julie Heffernan

"Self Portrait as Bird Feeder," oil painting by Julie Heffernan

I also kept thinking about jungles, especially the fantastical, made-up jungles of Henri Rousseau, and the dreamy lush gardens of ancient Roman frescoes.

Fresco Painted Garden Villa of Livia Palazzo Italy

Fresco Painted Garden Villa of Livia Palazzo Italy

The tiger wasn't a real tiger, either, but something made up from stories and imagination, and converted into dream-essence.  Again, I used Rousseau as an inspiration, but even more, I felt drawn to these old Korean paintings from hundreds of years ago.  

fantastical Korean tiger painting (possibly 17th century?)  More images can be found on my Pinterest board: "Ideas for Tiger Painting."

fantastical Korean tiger painting (possibly 17th century?)  More images can be found on my Pinterest board: "Ideas for Tiger Painting."

Finally, a few weeks ago, I started my self portrait.  I locked the door of my studio and put a "Do Not Disturb" sign on it.  I finished it two days ago, and I'm pleased with the result, even though it has a lot of shortcomings, and it's  a pretty clumsy attempt at manifesting the vision in my mind.  But, it's where I am at the moment, and it makes me feel powerful and fierce.

"The Lady, or The Tiger?" oil on canvas, 18x24"  

"The Lady, or The Tiger?" oil on canvas, 18x24"  

I named my painting after the famous short story we all had to read in middle school.  Although I don't find the writing to be particularly good, the haunting cliffhanger at the end of the story has remained with me all my life.  What was behind the door that the young man opened?  Was it the lady, or the tiger?  And are they really so different?  Is one better, or worse, than the other?  

All I know is that the tiger is a part of me, alive and well in the jungles of my dreams.

Finding Alignment

"Sometimes I'm homesick for that one time in that one place in Easton when I felt beautiful and known."

--Rachel Engh

"These Are Things We Made Together" Collage by Rachel Engh

"These Are Things We Made Together" Collage by Rachel Engh

A guest blog post by Easton artist and friend, Rachel Engh!

I made some art.  It's about trying to find alignment.

Guys, the only reason I'm writing this is because my friend, Lauren (totally talented painter and artist and mom), is going to write about me and I thought I needed to write about me first. Well, okay, she's actually going to write about some art that I've been making.

Note from Lauren:  Actually, Rachel's style of writing is perfect.  I'm going to let her writing stand, with a little of my own italicized commentary. 

Another Note from Lauren: My friend Rachel and I  have a lot of fun looking at art together.  This is one of my favorite photos (credit: Ray DiCecco) of Rachel and me looking at art during a Tiffany Calvert show at Brick and Mortar Gallery last May.

Another Note from Lauren: My friend Rachel and I  have a lot of fun looking at art together.  This is one of my favorite photos (credit: Ray DiCecco) of Rachel and me looking at art during a Tiffany Calvert show at Brick and Mortar Gallery last May.

(back to Rachel)

Here's the story:

Several months ago the Arts Community of Easton was looking for space downtown for artists to show their work for the annual Arts Tour. My office (Metris Arts Consulting in the Karl Stirner Arts Building at 230 Ferry Street, Easton) is downtown so we offered up our wall space. Turns out, not enough artists came forward for the spaces so when I ran into Marya, the organizer, outside the Post Office, she asked if I was an artist. It took me a long time to say "yes, kind of." Then she asked me about my medium.

"I glue stuff on paper."

"Then you do mixed media."

detail of "Island Bangles" collage by Rachel Engh

Ok, so remember how this was months ago? One of the reasons I said yes was because I thought this deadline would actually motivate me to get the things swimming inside my head out of my head. Well, the Art Tour is a week and a half away and I will proudly say that I have indeed pasted some stuff on paper. It might not be good but it feels good to dust off the ol' scissors and glue.

What is this art about? Well, for a long time I was telling myself I needed to make art in order to try and make sense of, or work though, a set of confusing moments. The problem, through, was that I had an idea for the what the finished product would look like but the ideas never left my head. I was putting too much pressure on trying to move through these confusing moments with an end already envisioned.

I should have remembered that the process is the art. So, anyway, my wise friend Lauren, helped me realize that my art is about me, more so than the confusing moments in and of themselves, which was a freeing realization.

"Beats 1" collage by Rachel Engh

"Beats 1" collage by Rachel Engh

So, yes, I've been thinking about home and my search for comfort (and home) here in Easton. But, I also know that as I'm searching for comfort, feeling discomfort means that I'm learning, right? Sometimes learning (and growing!) is uncomfortable.

I think more than comfort, I'm searching for alignment.  A search for alignment of what my heart says it wants and what my head knows is true. Or what my head says it wants and what my heart knows is true. I also feel like my heart sometimes lately wants to be in a different place than where it physically is. I mean, sometimes I'm homesick for Minneapolis -- my family and friends, the bike trails and drivers who stop for pedestrians.

"Beats 2" collage by Rachel Engh

Sometimes I'm homesick for that one time in that one place in Easton when I felt beautiful and known.

I made these things and now perhaps I think they're about aligning the heart (heart beats) with the outside world (animals).... Or maybe not, maybe I just liked how they looked together.

"Beats 3" collage by Rachel Engh

"Beats 3" collage by Rachel Engh

I'm also interested by the German word "fernweh," which means, I think, feeling homesick for a place one has never been to before. 

I cut up an old atlas into bathtub shapes. It's called:

Bathing Off the Coasts of Places I've Never Been To.

"Bathing off the coast of places I've never been to" collage by Rachel Engh

"Bathing off the coast of places I've never been to" collage by Rachel Engh

Ok, well, stay tuned for more. Or just show up in Easton on April 22 and 23 to say "hi."

Note from Lauren:  My studio will also be open that weekend!  It's possible to see both of us in the same day!

"Island Bangles" collage by Rachel Engh

Published! (Introducing Myself as a Writer)

My first artist profile as a staff writer for the Irregular is in print today!  You can find copies of the Easton Irregular all around Easton, for example in the foyer outside my studio and the Easton Public Market.  For those of you who can't get a hard copy, I am publishing this article here on my blog.  I also made it my new Bio.

"Suddenly a veil was torn away. My destiny as a painter opened up to me." -Monet

I am overjoyed to introduce myself as the new writer for this “Artist Profile” column. I accepted the position with great enthusiasm because I love to write and I am also an artist myself. Those two parts of my spirit seem to feed off each other and are inseparable. I write a weekly blog every Wednesday morning that includes, among other things, essays, short stories, and poems about art ( I also paint full-time in my new studio in downtown Easton at 7B North Bank Street, when my children (ages 7 and 10) are in school. I just signed the lease for my studio in August, so it still feels like a brand-new adventure!

My kids and me hanging out on the front steps of my new studio, photo credit: EH photography.

My kids and me hanging out on the front steps of my new studio, photo credit: EH photography.

I moved to Easton ten years ago, and for a long time I was completely preoccupied with raising a family and being a stay-at-home mom. Although I was always creative, I didn’t consider myself a Serious Artist, and I was unsure about what I wanted to do with my life. Then, in July of 2014, I had what I can only describe as an artistic awakening. Almost overnight, I was overtaken with a fierce, burning desire to paint, and I knew I just had to be an artist. It was just like there was a blazing fire inside of my body, terrifying and exciting at the same time.

I was desperate to learn everything I could about art. Thanks to a tremendous amount of understanding and support from my family, I was able to take some private painting classes and workshops, and a few courses at the Baum School of Art in Allentown. And of course, I soon realized that painting itself is the best teacher. I am so lucky to live in Easton, which is such a fantastic place to be an artist. The energy is great; you can just feel that the city loves artists! The art community is so supportive, and I’m grateful to the seasoned artists who have helped me by giving me encouragement and guidance.

"She found herself in the kitchen again, alone and quite small..." oil on canvas, 8x10"

"She found herself in the kitchen again, alone and quite small..." oil on canvas, 8x10"

I paint mainly in oils, which are just so luscious and satisfying, and I find inspiration in the world around me: in my family members and community, the local architecture and landscape, the objects that surround me in my daily life, other artists’ work, and even my own dreams and fantasies. A lot of my work, mainly my still lifes, can be described as chiaroscuro, an oil painting technique developed during the Renaissance which uses strong tonal contrasts and has a very dramatic lighting effect. When I paint this way, I have a lot of fun and I feel like a magician performing a trick. Caravaggio, Rembrandt and Artemisia Gentileschi are some of my chiaroscuro influences.

A portrait of my son, "Morgan," oil on canvas mounted on board, 11x14"

A portrait of my son, "Morgan," oil on canvas mounted on board, 11x14"

I also do quite a bit of plein air landscape painting, which is painting out-of-doors. I go about these paintings much differently from my chiaroscuro work. They are more free and painterly and I use a brighter, more colorful palette. With the landscapes, I’m able to express something inside of myself that I can’t do any other way. I benefited a great deal from taking some local plein air workshops, which I describe in greater detail in my blog. My landscape-painter idols include Corot, Yael Scalia and Stuart Shils.

"Coreopsis Field 4" oil on board, 9x12"

"Coreopsis Field 4" oil on board, 9x12"

However, in reality, I adore many different kinds of painting, and I am smitten with many, many different artists. (Just read my blog or follow me on Pinterest if you are curious.) I really haven’t been painting seriously for very long and I’m not ready to chain myself down to any one way of painting just yet. When I try out certain methods or techniques, I try to do so from a place of joy and curiosity. I feel like a student in the best sense, delighted to play and learn new things. I’m sure that I can continue to grow as an artist for as long as I live. To quote my artist statement from my solo show last spring:

“I am filled with eagerness for the artist's life that stretches out before me.”

I’m grateful for this opportunity to share my love of art and artists with the readers of the Easton Irregular. I really look forward to writing these articles. Enjoy!

"Irises and Apricots" oil on canvas mounted on board, 11x14" from the collection of Rachel Engh

"Irises and Apricots" oil on canvas mounted on board, 11x14" from the collection of Rachel Engh


You can meet Lauren and see her work up close along with several other area artists this month on the Art Community of Easton’s 19th Annual ACE Art Tour, Saturday & Sunday, April 22 & 23 from 11 am to 5 pm both days. Lauren’s Studio is located at 7B North Bank Street. To contact Lauren, call 267-247-6364, email or visit her online at She can also be found on various social networking platforms: Instagram - @lauren_kindle, Facebook - kindlearts, Pinterest - laurenjkindle, and Twitter - @KindleArts.

Writing and Art

"He is an explorer feeling his way in an effort to reveal some unknown aspect of existence.  

He is fascinated not by his voice but by a form he is seeking..."

--Milan Kundera, The Art of the Novel

"Still Life With Book" painting by Richard Diebenkorn

Many of you already know that I recently accepted a job as a writer for the monthly "Artist Profile" column of my local newspaper, the Easton Irregular.  This free newspaper can be found around town at many community locations, including my new studio.  I'll also publish each article on my blog once a month, starting next week, so you can read it online.  I'm SO EXCITED to have this job because I feel like I can honestly tell people that I am a Real Writer.  Here's a picture of my writing desk (the kitchen table) and some daffodils from my garden:

Somebody recently cautioned me against combining writing with visual art.  He shared this Cezanne quote with me:

 "If you would be a painter avoid the literary spirit." 

I can't possibly take that advice!  Of course I always try consider a painting for its own sake, but I can't completely isolate my literary and painterly tendencies.  I just can't agree with Cezanne.  (Although, I would love to have tea with him...or write a story about how I had tea with him while he painted, and how his young son climbed on my lap, and the birds sang in the garden...)

So, it's settled:  I'm a writer AND a painter!   It seems to be all interwoven within my soul.

Here's an illustration by Norman Rockwell that I remember vividly from my childhood copy of Little Women by Louisa May Alcott.  I loved that book, being one of four sisters myself.  I always wanted to be the character Jo, who wrote imaginative stories while hiding up in the attic of her house.

To celebrate my coming-out as a writer, I've decided to dedicate one of my work days to writing.  This is a big step from trying to fit my writing into the late hours of the night, or random moments here or there.  I have a lot of writing projects up my sleeve!  In addition to my blog and Irregular articles, I am working on three new novels and seven short stories.  And of course, poems often arise.  My new schedule will be to work Monday-Friday 10-3 in my studio.  Except for Wednesdays.  Wednesdays will be for writing!  It feels good to take my writing seriously!

Read some of my art-inspired creative writing here.

And speaking of writer-artists, check out my friend Kate Brandes, who is a great inspiration to me.  She is an artist and a writer, soon to be published!  Come to her book launch on April 22nd!  Hooray Kate!  (Read about our collaborative art projects here.)

Additional News:  I am the featured artist for the April edition of the eastonPop Micro Mag.  It is a very cool little magazine designed to highlight local pop culture in Easton.  On the back is a map featuring some local studios and galleries, mine included!  Thanks to my friend Esther for the great photo on the front cover.  You can pick up an eastonPop micro mag at my studio, or at Terra Cafe or the Easton Public Market, as well as many other locations.

Synchronicity and Art

"Synchronicity arises from our search for meaning."

--Ed Kerns, artist

"Martian Sex" painting by Ed Kerns

This week I had a job modeling for a painting class at Lafayette College.  I frequently model for artist groups and classes, but it was my first time modeling for this particular class.  When I introduced myself to the professor, Ed Kerns, he immediately waved me over to a seat beside his desk and started to talk to me about art.  He invited me to sit in on the beginning of his class, which turned into an hour-long lecture which blew my mind.  

I LOVED Ed's lecture and I felt extremely envious of the students in the class.  I really wanted to be taking this class myself!  What fascinated me was how much Ed talked about science, evolution, geology, and philosophy in a painting class.  He spoke as if it were common knowledge that these things were inherently one thing, indivisible.  I didn't have a notebook, so I couldn't take notes, and I could hardly keep up with the pace of the new ideas coming at me.  It was so exciting!!!

"Breath Web" by Ed Kerns

I had never heard these terms before: entropy, emergence, synchronicity.  As far as I could gather, "entropy" has to do with the universe's inevitable, gradual decline into disorder, or the tendency towards chaos.  A force which counter-balances that is called "synchronicity," or meaningful coincidences.  I didn't totally understand this; it was all so new to me.  Among other things, Ed said, "Synchronicity arises from our search for meaning."  We watched some of this Ted Talk: The Science of Sync.

He made me question things that I assumed were true.  For example, is vision true?  Do my eyes tell the truth?  We watched a good part of this Donald Hoffman video, Consciousness and the Interface Theory of Perception, which made me question the reality of what my eyes tell me, and how that relates to being an artist.  Because, what is an artist anyway, beside someone who manipulates visual objects?

We also watched this video of Rupert Sheldrake: Can Emergence Explain Reality?  I didn't quite comprehend "emergence" and I really felt out of my depth here, but one thing I got from this was how pervasive change is in the universe.  We can't really say "Laws" of nature, because they are inherently subject to change.  They might more rightly be thought of as "Habits."

"One Thousand Miles Just to Shed this Skin" by Ed Kerns

This blog post in no way accurately summarizes the painting class.  I'm sure I didn't really understand most of it anyway.  It's just my feeble attempt to write down the things I felt I was able to grasp.  What I got out of the afternoon was a sense of intense curiosity about science and the world, and a desire to wonder about things.  I had always thought of myself as a very unscientific, very right-brained person, but now I'm questioning all that.  Aren't I a scientist and a philosopher simply because I am alive and inquisitive, and part of this fascinating universe?    And making art isn't separate from that!

I'm excited about modeling for the class again this afternoon.  I'll let you know what I learn!

an image from Cajal's Butterflies of the Soul: Science an Art, a book Ed Kerns let me borrow


"To watch them get a little older/ And give themselves up to the light."

---from "Tulips," by A.E. Stallings

"Sketch of a Tulip" oil on board by Lauren Kindle, 2016

(This painting will be part of the EZ2STEAL small works show on March 25th at Prallsville Mills, Stockton, NJ.)

"Tulips" by A.E. Stallings


The tulips make me want to paint,

Something about the way they drop

Their petals on the tabletop

And do not wilt so much as faint,


Something about their burnt-out hearts,

Something about their pallid stems

Wearing decay like diadems,

Parading finishes like starts,


Something about the way they twist

As if to catch the last applause,

And drink the moment through long straws,

And how, tomorrow, they’ll be missed.


The way they’re somehow getting clearer,

The tulips make me want to see

The tulips make the other me

(The backwards one who’s in the mirror,


The one who can’t tell left from right),

Glance now over the wrong shoulder

To watch them get a little older

And give themselves up to the light.

"Vanity" oil on board, 5x7"

I would like to give a special thanks to my friend Kat, poet and creator of the blog, "Dragon's Meow: Poetry and Paying Attention," for introducing me to this poem by A.E. Stallings.

My Morning With Ken Kewley

 “We all have the colors needed to make beautiful paintings.”

--Ken Kewley

"Walking to Ken Kewley's House in the Rain" collage on paper, 5x5" by Lauren Kindle (me)

It was raining steadily, so I put on my red raincoat and took my new umbrella, imagining, as I was opening the umbrella, that I was also opening my mind.  I took along a pen and a sketchbook, and off I went through town, up the hill to Ken Kewley’s house. 

I felt jittery all over, and my heart beat faster, because I was remembering my last visit with Ken Kewley not long ago, and how I had walked into his house and immediately felt overwhelmed by the art in it.  Not only the art, but the art-making and all of its intoxicating debris, and the way that Ken talked about art, in his soft-spoken, humble way, saying things that made me forget to breathe.  I felt a soul-pain, like my heart was a cup getting filled up…until it just cracked open. 

I was part of a small gallery-tour, and we had reached the top floor of Ken’s house-studio.  I couldn’t really concentrate, because I was so excited by everything I saw, but I remember him talking to the other people:

“If you go out and see a landscape and get excited about it,” he said, “You don’t have to go back to it, because the landscape is inside you.”

"Easton from Balcony" by Ken Kewley

When I heard that, I sat down in the corner of his studio and started crying.  I was overwhelmed and mortified, barely enduring Ken's kind, reassuring words or the looks of sympathy from the other people taking the gallery tour.  I ran home as fast as I could, and later that night I wrote Ken a long, heartfelt letter, covering the envelope with tiny paintings.   A few days later he responded warmly, and invited me to visit him in his studio for a power-point presentation.   How could I refuse?

This is my favorite painting (currently) by Ken Kewley.  I like to pretend it's a painting of me, when I'm feeling overwhelmed and thinking too much!

 And so now here I was, at his doorstep again, with my umbrella.  I stepped out of the rain into a small, dark room.  As my eyes adjusted to the dim light, my heart did a little flip, for right before me on the wall was a huge Kyle Staver painting!  My infatuation with the artist Kyle Staver was new and intense, and I tried to describe my enthusiam to Ken, stumbling over the words.  As we talked about Kyle Staver, he calmly led me into his kitchen and made us some tea.  He handed me a little ziplock bag containing a tiny notepad, a pen, and a few pieces of thin cardboard: squares and rectangles. 

“This is your kit,” he explained, and then he went on to show me his own notepad, filled up with small squares in which he had composed various geometric compositions.

My kit, including some of my own straight-line compositions...

“I’ve been filling up these notebooks since my heart surgery in 2010,” he said, as he showed me a few of the thousands of compositions he had made.  “I carry this kit everywhere I go.  Even waiting in the line at the grocery store, I can easily make a dozen compositions.”

“Do you ever go back and look at them and use them for paintings?” I asked.

“No,” he said.  “You’re just trying to get them inside you, into your muscle-memory.”  He got out a little piece of cardboard and started using it like a straight edge, making lines. 

“I just make little compositions,” he said as he drew.  “One after another, one after another.  Don’t think about it.  Just relate each line to the one before it.  The mind wants to relate everything to everything else.  If someone walks in the door wearing a yellow shirt, then you will notice a yellow pencil lying on the table, or another yellow object.  It’s like that.  The mind will compose, if you let it.  Thinking is the worst thing you can ever do.  If you think, it’s very hard for your unconscious to do anything.  You don’t have to do anything really, you just put it down, really, it’s so simple.

I watched him make a few tiny compositions; it did look easy…

These are some of Ken's drawings:  "viola études" 144 square inches

Ken explained that his workshops had two basic goals: how to divide up a square into a composition, and how to get excited about color.  “That’s all I teach,” he said. 

He opened up the laptop and began showing me his power-point presentation.  He began with his childhood, when his dad opened a paint store and painted large color strips all around the walls of the store.  And now, that is essentially what Ken does himself, in his art: painting strips of colors, and using them like collage.  He spoke about creating clear distinctions between shapes, and jumps in value.

“If your value is good, your color is going to be good,” he said.  “Don’t try to match reality, but get the relationships right.” 

The power-point presentation then shifted into a series of paintings by Braque, an artist I hadn’t known before.  One painting showed a Braque still-life of grapes on a lettuce leaf, which was on a plate, which was on a table, which in turn was surrounded by white shapes. 

"Fruit Dish and Clarinet" 1920 by Braque

“In this painting,” Ken pointed out, “Everything is being held by things.  Everything is bracketed.”  Ken encouraged me to look at more Braque paintings, as well as those by David Hockney, Diebenkorn, and Renoir.

“But, Renoir uses so many brush strokes and curves!” I protested.

“Yes,” Ken said, “But underneath all that fussiness, the structure is so strong.  You want to have freedom, but it’s a freedom that you need to structure.”

"Gabrielle and Jean" one of my favorite Renoir paintings

He explained how you can always look for a few big shapes, maybe 4 or 5, shapes that connect with each other.  So it’s not a house and a tree in a landscape, for example, but rather, two strong shapes relating to each other.  Then, after you get those larger shapes working, you can go back in and fix the details. 

He also suggested that when I’m painting, I find something that’s not the object, that the viewer is going to see first, and paint that.  Then later, the viewer will begin to recognize objects.  “It’s more exciting,” said Ken.  “You’re not trying to confuse people, you’re just trying to slow down the looking.

Slow down the looking.

I thought about that.  I liked the way it sounded... 

Landscape by Ken Kewley

He started talking more about color, which is something I felt insecure about, having recently realized how very ignorant I am.  But Ken acted like it was no big deal to use color, as long as I thought in terms of abstraction.

Force what you’re working on into abstraction,” he said.  “It’s the abstraction that’s the art.  The other thing is the imitation.  For example, if you are painting a landscape, what is exciting you?  Is it the fact that it’s a particular species of oak tree?  More likely it’s the colors and the shapes that excite you!  That’s abstraction.

He showed me a photograph of several jars of colored water, left over from cleaning brushes.  “If you get excited about this, that’s all the color theory you need,” he said.  “And as for the composition, it’s either dark clusters on light, or light clusters on dark.”

"Chocolate Cake with Apricot" by Ken Kewley, oil on panel

The power-point presentation went on and on.  Ken described so many fun, playful activities, little “art-games,” that he typically uses during his workshops for the sake of understanding composition.  Ken spoke excitedly at this point, his ideas coming faster than his ability to speak.  I had an image in my mind of him teasing Color and Composition out of their mysterious hiding places, just as if they were kids on the playground.

One game involves chocolate.  You take a large square of chocolate, break it into two unequal pieces, and then put the pieces into a square composition, arranging the pieces in an interesting way, scanning and printing the compositions as you make them.

“Do a hundred of these,” Ken said.  “It would be easy to do a thousand!  Then imagine if you had three colors and shapes.  The possibilities would be infinite!  This is all you do in your whole art career.  You don’t have to try hard.  You don’t have to try desperately.  People don’t want to see that.  If you’re happy you’ll paint happy paintings.  And if you try to paint a happy painting, it will be sad.”

He encouraged me to work from life as well as working from my inner mind.  “They feed each other,” he said.  “Go out to a landscape, but instead of painting in the traditional way, just make a whole lot of paint strips, each one based on a color you see.  You can also do a bunch of little line drawings with the straight edge.  Then go home, and make a cardboard landscape sculpture based on your memory of the landscape.  Then paint that.  Keep the planes flat.”

The same thing could be done with a figure.  If you have a model, make a cardboard sculpture of her, and then work from that.  “Don’t imitate,” he said.  “Describe.” 

seated woman with landscape. 14 x 11 inches, acrylic on wood panel

Over and over again, he insisted that it’s really simple, that the unconscious would do the work for me, if only I would stop thinking.  I wondered if it really would be so simple for me, especially because I seem to be in the habit of agonizing over everything in my life.  I can turn the simplest thing into a deeply complicated form of mental torture, without even intending to.  But maybe I could learn to let go of all that?  I sighed deeply.

“Painting should not be hard,” Ken said, “because, it’s hard enough.”

As we finished our tea and ate the chocolate, we realized that it was quite late in the day.  The power point presentation had lasted three and a half hours!  My head was spinning pleasantly as I put on my raincoat and said goodbye.  I felt very happy, and ready to try new things.

Outside, the rain had stopped, and the bright sunlight dazzled my eyes. 

The End

Painting color strips with my six-year-old son...

Painting color strips with my six-year-old son...

Note:  I wrote this story in May, 2016.  It's a true story!


Upcoming Workshops With Ken Kewley:  

Warehouse 521, Nashville, TN - June 16 - 18, 2017

Three Pines Studio, Cross Village, MI - June 23 - 25, 2017

Truro Center for the Arts at Castle Hill, Truro, MA - July 3 - 7, 2017


Following Ken Kewley on Facebook is a good way of keeping you updated on workshops, as well as (most likely) cultivating a serious, long-term relationship with Braque.


Ken also has a website:

The Only Painting That Has Ever Made Me Cry

"To be in love with a painting—to need to be able to believe a painting can be alive:

not literally, but moment by moment in your imagination."

--James Elkins, Pictures and Tears

A couple of years ago I read a book by James Elkins called Pictures and Tears: A History of People Who Have Cried in Front of Paintings.  Actually, I really only read about half of it, because I personally found it to be tedious and boring.  (I should give it another chance, though.  Sometimes my judgement is clouded by my whims.)

Even though I didn't get into the book itself, I just loved the title and the concept.  I felt completely captivated by the idea of people standing in front of paintings all over the world, being moved to tears.

I myself have been moved by many paintings, but brought to tears only by one:

"The Jewish Bride" by Rembrant

I haven't seen this painting in real life, but only in a book.  Specifically, what moved me was the look in man's eyes.  To me, it is the most tender, most loving, and also the most heart-breaking expression.

In her wonderful book, Meditations, Sister Wendy (the famous, quirky, art-loving nun) writes about this painting:

"We know at once that they love each other.  Each gives love and receives it.  Love is supremely beautiful, but like the golden chain the man has placed around the neck of his beloved, it also binds.  Each is surrendering freedom, but willingly so, thus facing the truth that we cannot have everything; if we love, we make a choice.  They do not even need to look into each other's eyes.  Rather, they ponder with wonder, the implications of their blessedness and the meaning of total commitment."

Has a painting ever made you cry?

Tell me about it in the comments below!

Winter Musings

"Who has not wept/ that love can offer us so little?  And wept again/ that it can do so much?"

--"This Blessing" a poem by Michael Blumenthal (excerpt)

"Snow Shadows" by Barry Koplowitz, oil on linen

I returned home Monday night from a spontaneous and much-needed weekend vacation, cross-country skiing in the Berkshires with my husband.  A few days of skiing through quiet, snowy forests was definitely therapeutic, maybe even soul-cleansing.  And of course, I kept thinking how wonderful it would be to return someday with my easel and paints, and make some snowscape paintings!  In that spirit, I've selected a few such landscapes painted by artists I admire, to illustrate today's blog post: some musings from my diary on the last morning of our mini-vacation.

"Path Through the Snow Under Golden Skies" by Walter Launt Palmer (1854-1932)

The roles of Mother, Wife, Daughter, Sister, Neighbor, Friend, Artist, and Writer... I would like to regard these as beautiful gifts to be received with gratitude, and taken on with a good mixture of responsibility and playfulness...

My intention, when we return home from this sunlit, tree-filled, blue-sky snowscape, is to re-enter my life with grace, not taking any of my roles for granted, nor suffering beneath their burdens, but rather, to take them gently by the hand, and dance lightly with them through all the days of my life...

However many days are given to me...

"Winter Afterglow" by Peter Fiore, oil on linen

I'm looking out the window at the morning light, feeling a joyful anticipation for another skiing adventure before we leave to pick up the kids and return to normal life.  But even normal life is good.  It's difficult to remember when you are "in the thick of it," so taking time to pause and reflect is going to be a big part of moving forward.

my favorite detail from "The Magpie," which is my favorite painting by Monet

Everything feels possible...

I do believe I am always growing, moving, and changing...

I strive for the artful management and balance of:

Solitude and Family,

Art and Duty,

Passion and Integrity.

This is my goal, worthy of all my energy, all my heart, all my soul.

"Frozen Lake New Galena" oil on linen, another painting by Barry Koplowitz

(Side note:  Barry is one of my favorite artists, and he has some plein air painting workshops coming up in Yardley, PA which are sure to be fantastic.)

Strange Love Letters

"Alas!  Alas!  Silence or sound, there is no substitute."

--from the love letters of Lauren Kindle

Envelopes As Art

In honor of Valentine's Day, today's blog post features love letters.  I have always regarded envelopes as blank canvases, and I'm not alone.  In the book Illustrated Letters: Artists and Writers Who Correspond, you can see the painted letters and envelopes of great artists such as Picasso and Corot.  If you are local, I would be happy to loan you my copy of this book.

Reading through my old letters was a wild ride.  Who writes "alas!" more than once in a sentence?  Me.  I do.  Or I did when I was twenty, anyway.  I credit my successful conquest of Ian not so much with the artistic quality of these letters, but with the sheer quantity and intensity of my correspondence.  

There are dozens of letters, enough to fill a few boxes in our attic, and most of them are too embarrassing and private to share publicly.  I'll just share a few excerpts, to give a hint at the contents of the envelopes.

Dearest, sweetest, most beloved man...

So close, so sweet, so dear to me.  Am I writing a letter to my own heart?  

Are you reading the words written by your very Soul?

I wish you were a jeweled, Byzantium cloak.  I would wrap you around my shoulders to keep warm.

You are a beautiful, enchanted spring in a magical forest in which I am completely lost and thirsty, but drinking your water transforms me...

Only at night can I resume my human form, but I can never leave the forest.  

Just as Psyche, a mere mortal woman, went trembling into the garden into the arms of the unknown, and found to her ecstasy that she embraced Eros, the god of love himself, so I found myself when I found you.

I became a goddess when you gave me your love.

You are a fair and adventurous sky over the ocean.

I love you with such passion-- If I let go of this pen my body would fly into heaven.

I listen to music night and day, vainly trying to fill the emptiness of your absence.  

Alas!  Alas!  Silence or sound, there is no substitute.

How can you do this to me?

My pen is alive and insane!  It will not stop-- my heart flows through it.

Maybe someday we will hear the Music of the Spheres together. 

Maybe we will make children together.

I hope and I wish...I will be rash enough, brave enough, foolish enough, insane with holy love...

Perhaps I shall ask you to marry me...



Further Reading

Lovesick Teenage Diary (more silly romance)

Travel Sketchbook (a painted envelope from Mexico)