Monday, September 23, 2019

Dala horses by my friend Julia

My friend Julia is a painter, a crafter, and a gardener. Recently she's had some success selling Dala horses on Zazzle. Dala horses are a part of Swedish, and Swedish-American, customs and heritage. They were originally carved by Swedish people during the long winters and painted red because the copper mines in the province of Dalarna, where the horse carvings started, yielded red pigment. Here's Julia's own words on why she makes Dala horses:

I've always loved horses and used to get made fun of as a child because I would always color them red. I had no idea why I did that. I just felt they should be that color.

My paternal grandfather had immigrated from Sweden but never talked much about it other than to teach me how to say a few words in swedish. My dad was proud that both of his parents had swedish ancestry but other than introducing us to a couple of his relatives didn't talk much more about it. As an adult I learned about dala horses and asked a Swedish uncle how I could learn to make then and he just replied "that's just something they do for the tourists" so I ended up having to teach myself.

I knew I'd gotten it right when the dala horse merchandise I created on Zazzle began to sell best in Sweden. Recently I inherited some of my baby pictures where I was playing with Dala Horse toys and then I knew I'd gone full circle and found the reason that they feel so much a part of me. Age and disability prevent me from carving horses much but I don't think I'll ever stop designing and painting them.
Julia's blog about her Dala horses is at Her other blog, about painting and gardening, is at

Thursday, August 15, 2019

So I made another sketch of Macha using what I learned from Millet's painting, and it didn't go well. The figure looked like a deformed grizzly bear cub. So I started working on my Website update instead. I'd have to get to that sooner or later anyway. I went through some tutorials which have the potential to bring me up to speed on coding modern responsive Websites. Got the content architecture designed, more or less, now do some wireframes and then start writing html.

Gawd but it makes me feel old to do grid page layouts. I can see how it evolved from recent CSS and HTML 5 but it's different enough I know I'll have to struggle a bit to get it to work. Haven't been this anxious about making Web pages in quite a while.

Do go look at my coloring page designs at, okay?

Thursday, May 2, 2019

So I'm working on the second Goddess design for the adult coloring book downloads collection at It's a depiction of Macha, Celtic Goddess of War and Fertility, as she uses the pin of her cloak brooch to inscribe a line representing the outer boundary of a fort to be built on a hill top. I've had a very hard time finding pictures to use as a model for her pose. Thought of photographing myself leaning over to scratch on the floor but that just didn't work out. Drawing a picture of Macha is proving to be much more challenging than the Aphrodite project was.

But I did find a photo in my old artists' model photos book (published circa 1950) of a young woman leaning down with her arm extended so her hand is about 5 inches above the floor. One leg is very gracefully bent just a little while the other one is nearly straight. Obviously she was able to keep her balance in that pose while the photographer took her picture from 8 different angles. So using my handy Photoshop Bezier tool in conjunction with the transform tool I bent her torso over a little further so her hand would reach the floor. (Which will become the ground in the finished design.) Now the problem becomes one of physics; can a human being simultaneously bend both legs adequately to get her hand to touch the ground, without pitching forward on to her head? And of course my problem as an artist is how do I get it to look like she's doing that?

In art school I learned that a standing human figure must have its chin above the heel of the "engaged" leg (the leg bearing most of the weight) in order to look convincingly upright and balanced. Artists and especially sculptors speak of "contraposto": an Italian term meaning "counterbalance" to describe how the torso twists and turns to distribute itself over a free and an engaged leg. For an illustration of this principle, refer to Michelangelo's David or nearly any standing Renaissance statue. I have to figure out how far to bend her over and how far out from her torso her arm would be, for her to maintain her balance.

As I was working with the photograph and the Photoshop tools I suddenly remembered Jean Francois Millet's painting "The Gleaners." This 19th-century work shows three women in a field gleaning the wheat left after the harvest. Two of the women are bent over from the waist as my goddess must be. They're at a different angle from the one I'm depicting Macha at, plus they're fully dressed, but using them as an example helps me determine exactly how far I need to have the goddess bend over. Pretty far, basically.

Here's a copy of the new drawing with the photograph under the line work, and a link to Millet's painting.

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

So I just uploaded 5 new seashell coloring designs to my Etsy shop. I colored one and put it on my Facebook fan page at Jenny's arty coloring pages. My friend Barb A. told me she liked the colored version and suggested it might be a good idea to do more of those, that they really are more inspiring than just the blank black-and-white line drawings. I think she's right.

It also occurred to me that each design would look a little different when printed on different types of paper. So I scrounged up some of the old fancy papers we've had lying around for years and printed out 3 different designs, one on Fargo Primera clay-coated paper, one on 24# (I think) regular bond, and one on the back side of a piece of paper with a preprinted border. The last one is fairly grainy and somewhat gray in color.
So here's the one I colored on regular 20# paper. Looks okay as a digital graphic but the original has sides all curled up because the Posca pens are too liquid for such flimsy substrate.

I tried coloring on the clay-coated paper with colored pencils; not a howling success. All the colors are very pale. I added some darker color with Prismacolor fine line markers and they were not an improvement. The texture they made was very scratchy and unattractive, and when I tried blending them with a Q-tip, they mostly just rubbed off. I'm going to take the paint pens (Posca pens) to it next.

All this is fine, even though I don't much like the results of the clay-coated paper much. This is all meant to be a learning experience so I can see which media - pencil, pen, marker, paint - works best with which substrate. Maybe I'll try a fresco on a wall next. No, not really.

Thursday, January 24, 2019

Nike driving a chariot - incredible ancient gold jewelry piece

So since I published the last post about the jewelry I used as models for the bling on my Aphrodite coloring page at, I've been getting a lot of notices from Pinterest about ancient jewelry. That's fun, but I got one today that just blew me away. This is a picture of an earring identified as Greek, Northern Greek, Late Classical or Early Hellenistic Period, about 350–325 B.C. It's in the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. This unbelievably stunning work is not quite 2 inches high. Take a look.

Nike driving a chariot

This is an EARRING, for Pete's sake, that's more complicated than some bronze statuary. And more beautiful than some I've seen, too. Right now I'm still trying to get my jaw up off the floor.

What is art, and what do you care anyway?

YES, damnit, it IS SO art!

The other night I struggled with a moral dilemma. An ad for came through my Facebook feed - this is a company that ...