My RV as Art Studio

As a traveling artist, I have my studio in my motorhome. It’s taken a lot of downsizing to adjust to working in a tiny space. Before I took off and left the sticks-and-bricks lifestyle, I had a nice sized room with plenty of shelves and storage. Now, everything must be carefully considered, down to the size canvases I plan to work on over the next few months. I work in oil, and I like to have several paintings going at once at various stages of completion. It can get a little hairy with wet paintings hanging out everywhere, and needless to say, my RV has paint smudges everywhere- the bathroom, microwave, inside the fridge. This used to drive a former OCD boyfriend insane, (and mercifully out of the relationship) but I am a slightly chaotic person and this is one of my occupational hazards. I have become accustomed to purple and green smudges on my sheets.


Two views of my work space in Bubbles, my RV. Yeah, it gets messy.

I can comfortably work on anything up to 18 x 24, though I’ve lived with a couple of 36 x 48 pieces while finishing my project for Mojave National Preserve. I’m a box hound- I scrutinize every box we are discarding here in the cafe at Arizona Fine Art Expo to see if it could work in the 29 foot mobile studio I also call home. When you’re living and working in the same small space, finding the right box balance is crucial.

Taking a selfie break.


Have Brushes, Will Travel

For the past six years, I have traveled through the country exhibiting my paintings. Inspiration can strike me anywhere, and I’m always ready with paints and brushes. For the past eight years, I’ve called the Phoenix area my winter home, and I’ve worked and exhibited at the Arizona Fine Art Expo. I’ve fallen in love with the Southwestern deserts and their brilliant sunsets. Traveling solo has allowed me to discover myself as well. One of my most empowering experiences was when I spontaneously decided to take off in “Little Girl,” my conversion van (yes, I must be able to sleep comfortably in any vehicle I own) and camp in the Mojave Desert. I saw no one for three days. After being told for years by a partner that I couldn’t travel alone, that I couldn’t manage such a big, old, and unreliable vehicle by myself, here I was sleeping under the stars, surrounded by cactus and the sound of coyotes (on my built-in-bed with the van doors open!).

This spring, when I leave Expo again, I am considering exploring Utah and Wyoming to visit a painter friend. I’m not sure if I want to take my RV or just the van; it depends on how off-road I may get. But the idea is exhilarating, and I’ll be finalizing my plans as this show winds down at the end of March. Stay tuned to my blog, as I post RV adventures along with my artwork!

Bubbles and I ready to roll!


Little Girl nestled in the Joshua trees somewhere in the Mojave Desert.

If a Cactus Falls in the Desert…

Like many people, the saguaro cactus was always the first thing I thought of when I thought about the desert. It’s the epitome of the desert, proud, distinct, and vaguely humanoid. But have you ever thought about the life of a cactus? Go up to a big one around midnight in the desert, and the hair on your arm just might rise a little. They loom there, stark dark silhouettes against a speckled sky, full of silent stories. Consider: for almost a century, it huddled in the shade of an ironwood nurse against the harsh desert summers as it began its life. An inch a year. It began growing arms; it grew into its role as the giver of life in the desert. Quiet centuries are spent keeping sentry over a forbidding landscape, the long shadows of its arms the last to unfold its embrace each sunset. Spend some time walking in the Arizona sun, and you’ll appreciate water. Spend some time walking in the Arizona moonlight, and you’ll understand mysticism.

The creatures that thrive here depend on it, from the woodpeckers and doves, to the bats, javelinas, and coyotes. Its flowers and fruit feed an entire ecosystem. Its growth may be nearly imperceptible, but its fleeting flowering season erupts in a riot of blossoms that each last only 24 hours and crown these majestic giants with creamy little floral hats.

I have been captivated by saguaros as a painting subject for as long as I’ve come to the Sonoran Desert. One of the most enormous ones I’d ever seen lived not far from my RV. A friend with a lot of desert horticultural experience said this big boy (Harry, as I liked to call him) was probably at least 300 years old, judging by the number of arms and height. With the moon rising behind him and the Superstition Mountains looming to the east and dusky in the distance, I took to sitting quietly at sunset and just marveling at the color changes. I began to capture moments with Harry: a black and white sketch, a color study. A landscape began to take place; as an artist who has specialized for years in minute details, the vastness of a landscape was foreign. The desert required me to expand my perception; I went for feeling, rather than exactitude. Harry silently oversaw those first splashes of line and color. One afternoon, I sketched his swirling lines and went inside to start a finished piece. Somewhere around sunset, as light was fading, I stepped outside to check the changing colors. I was puzzled, then alarmed. Harry was gone. I seriously considered that I had had a minor stroke, or that I had accidentally ingested a drug and that I was hallucinating. How in the blue hell does a fifty-foot tall cactus just vanish from the landscape? I pounded up the ladder to the roof of my RV, and my jaw fell. There, lying along the side of Scottsdale Road, were the broken remains of Harry. Had he been hit by a car? I hadn’t heard anything. There was no way any vehicle could have crashed into him without having sustained serious damage. In the dying light, I picked my way through the mesquite and brittle brush to look at the shattered pieces in the arroyo and saw a four foot stump that was swirling with bees.

The next morning, Christine and I puzzled out Harry’s sudden collapse: of the many creatures that find a home in a saguaro cactus, it was the tiniest that led to his fall. Bees had bored into the lower trunk, and over time, it rotted out from the inside. A full grown saguaro like Harry could weigh five tons, and his compromised trunk could stand no more. I had missed his demise by at most an hour.

I like to think that Harry had survived the centuries, grown to be a magnificent cactus, and when someone had at last immortalized him and acknowledged his quiet grandeur, he finally returned to the earth. Noble and enduring, he sustained life for a multitude of species: a mighty saguaro contributes far more to the earth than we do. I was honored to have captured the spirit of this saguaro and bear witness to his last reach towards a sunset. It was good to know you, Harry.

Les Petits Cailloux

When I was a little girl, the best days of summer were spent with my mother and grandmother at a beach cottage in Lazy Point, Long Island. It was my mother’s cousin’s place: an old fishing shack that her father had bought for a song sometime after the big hurricane of ’37, and it barely boasted running water, but it was our West Egg. The week of our summer vacation, just us girls would escape the suburban steamy heat and head out in our big turquoise station wagon to this tiny community that lived in the shadow of the trendy Hamptons. The men would join us later, on the weekend, but for a blissful lazy week, three generations of girls would stroll the bay beaches, talk, cook, read, play board games, laugh, and dream out loud. At night, my older sister and I would share a bed- slightly sandy, smelling of sea salt, as were we. Mom and Grandma might play cards, do crosswords, or just sit outside on the porch looking out over Gardiner’s Bay, watching the moon. They’d share the other double bed in the room, and the four of us would laugh and talk late into the night. If we were lucky, Grandma would tell us stories of her brothers’ capers on that very same beach some fifty years earlier. I would wake in the morning to seagull cries, salt air, coffee brewing, bacon cooking. My mother and her mother would be sitting on the beach outside, picking through piles of pebbles, sorting them into colors and shapes. Shells would go in another pile- the jingle shells, boat shells, razor clams, scallops, maybe a conch. My mother particularly sought out the perfectly round, white pebbles, as they were hard to find. The tide would creep in, and seafoam would curl around our toes as the hours passed. Brilliant green sea lettuce would wash up, filmy and nearly iridescent. My mother would take a piece from the water, and hold it up to the sun, where it sparkled like a sheet of emeralds.

Years passed, and so did my mother. I rarely visit Long Island any more, let alone Lazy Point, but I still carry on the love of collecting stones and shells from the beaches, this time from all different shores. There isn’t a single rock I’ve collected- from Bar Harbor Maine, to Big Sur, California- where her invisible hand isn’t collecting them with me. The sea lettuce is the special bond I share with my mother; we were the only green-eyes in the family. I have my own collection of rocks from all over the country, but it’s the little white ones- les petits cailloux- that bring me home in my heart.

Cailloux for web

Welcome Back Readers!

It’s been awhile since I had a blog up and running, and thanks for stopping in.  I’ve been busy in Los Osos, California getting ready for Arizona Fine Art Expo in January, 2018, where I’ll be exhibiting my photorealism and introducing my new contemporary realism.  Below is Cholla Fire, which I painted for my artist residency at Mojave National Preserve.  It captures the feeling of a brilliant desert sunset, and the way it imbues everything with a fiery glow.  Cholla cactus is a lot of fun for me to paint, and I can let loose some of the juicy colors I love to work with.  24″ x 24″, oil on aluminum panel.Cholla-Fire