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.

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Ancient Grecian Jewelry: Bracelets and necklaces and rings, oh my!

Designing my latest adult coloring page, "Aphrodite, goddess of love and beauty," involved researching ancient Greek jewelry. (For those who didn't read their Edith Hamilton in high school, Aphrodite is an ancient Greek and Roman deity.) Being a goddess of beauty, among other things, of course she'd need a lot of bling. The finished design is at

So I fired up Google Images and found a treasure trove of jewelry that is stunningly, breathtakingly, heartbreakingly beautiful. The workmanship on them is beyond all belief; the gold is so cunningly wrought, the gems so spectacular, the iconography powerful, dramatic, and arresting. I had to stop and just stare in awe before I could even download any of the images.

Out of all the baubles I found, I gave my Aphrodite earrings, a necklace, two bracelets, and a finger ring. The snake bracelet on her upper arm is from the Hellenistic period of the late 4th to 3rd century BCE. Many versions of it exist, but all consist of one or two serpents with a "Herakles knot" between two semi-coiled snakes. Many examples have a jewel on top of the knot; this particular piece was sold by Christies auction house in 2005 for $52,000.

Her other jewelry isn't showing up on Google Images the way they did when I first found them; who knows why? But I have all these pictures saved on my hard drive.

I had to simplify everything a bit so it would fit into a picture which is only 8.5 by 11 inches in total. In the case of the finger ring, I had to simplify a lot - I ended up with just a simple circular jewel on a band, nothing like the elaborate, gaudy confection shown in the lower right of the picture above. Makes me wonder if you could even bend your finger if you were wearing that monster. All the ancient jewels are what is called "cabochon" style - that's a gem that's just polished, but not cut. Faceted jewelry didn't exist until sometime in the Middle Ages. But I drew facets on Aphrodite's ring jewel so people would understand what it was supposed to be.

If you want to see more of this rad ancient jewelry, search for it on Google Images or visit Pinterest and search on "ancient jewelry." You will be amazed.

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Blog of a healer

My brother-in-law, Harvey Caine, is a licensed massage therapist and certified counselor in Washington State. He also does guided meditation and grounding. Rather than trying to explain what he does second-hand, I'll just post these links to his Website at and his blog at I can testify personally that he's a really nice guy too!

Monday, October 29, 2018

Learning colored pencil technique

I used my Crayola coloring pencils to draw geometric shapes with shading, just to learn the ins and outs of colored pencils as a drawing medium. I enjoyed the feel of the pencil as it skidded lightly over the rough paper and bit into it more deeply as I increased the pressure to make a color darker. I looked at the page by chance about two weeks later. It was about halfway done, with just the two left columns and the top square in the third from left column done. I don’t remember why I stopped there, probably to eat or sleep. But I felt a need to fill the rest of the page with more squares and circles.

So I made a bunch more squares, one at a time, but of course since two weeks had gone by my aesthetic had evolved away from what I’d created previously. I consciously forced myself to put in some more 3D circles, in the rightmost column. I realized when it was done I’d made a picture, not just a practicing of technique. What strikes me about it right now is how easy it is to make just pure shapes and color combinations, with no attempt to include any kind of content. Too easy, my conscience says, a picture must be about something! Even abstract surrealism is about Some Thing. This work, which I call “Let me count the ways,” - all the ways I can draw circles and squares, that is – was fun to do. But I’m not ready to completely give up objectivism yet.

Non-objectivism (Pollock, de Koonig, Newman,,) had its heyday in the ‘60s and ‘70s, mostly on the East Coast, but one notices that there isn’t much of it around anymore. I suspect it is really a dead end. I don’t feel very surrealistic anymore but I’m not going to do photorealism either. So about the only path left is abstraction, but I’m finding that difficult. Can’t seem to distinguish it from cartooning. Check back with me in a couple weeks and I’ll let you know where I am artistically. In the meantime, back to designing coloring pages.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Stephanie Plum, a woman after my own heart

How many of you who, like me, are fans of Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum murder mystery/comedy novels, are also women? Probably a majority, I bet. Stephanie is a Bond Enforcement Agent, or, as most would say, bounty hunter. This is a job that calls for quick reflexes, killer instinct, and skill with firearms. Unfortunately, Stephanie has none of these. But as her boyfriend Joe Morelli often tells her, “It’s better to be lucky than smart.”

I’m kind of like Stephanie that way. Like when I was a Web designer, when bosses would ask me to create something I didn’t know how to code, I’d just gulp and say “Sure.” Then I’d desperately Google tutorials and cobble together something that worked, sort of. There was always somebody out there on an obscure Website offering a clever piece of code that did the trick.

Similarly, Stephanie stumbles through dangerous assignments that often almost get her killed. Her sidekick Lula, who considers the greatest things in life fried chicken, Spandex, and the importance of correctly accessorizing, is occasionally helpful. But the great thing about Lula is that she’s never needy. In fact, her soaring self-esteem could be a model for any of us to follow. And when she is helpful, she’s spectacular. In my current read, “Takedown Twenty,” Lula rescues Stephanie and her grandma from rapidly-hardening cement by calling the police, the fire department, and both of Stephanie’s badass studmuffins, Morelli and Ranger.

Hardcore feminists would say that Stephanie needs intensive mentoring in being strong, independent, and take-charge, preferably with attitude. Softcore, i.e., realistic, feminists like me acknowledge we need men, or more accurately, one or two good ones. Not to validate us, to fix the dryer vent or chase away bad guys trying to kill us. Also, we should all be so lucky as to have problems like Stephanie’s with her love life: whether to settle down with comfortable, reliable Morelli or yield to lust and go with noncommital but smokin’ hot Ranger.

Like most of us, Stephanie Plum is doing the best she can with what she’s got. Despite her shortcomings, she usually figures out who the killer is and manages, even if accidentally, to bring him or her to justice. This gives me hope; if she can do that, maybe I can continue indefinitely tapdancing on the edge of the abyss.

I often fantasize about what a great movie the latest Evanovich movie would make. There was one released in 2012, “One for the Money,” starring Katherine Heigl. (Trailer at I’d love to see "Takedown Twenty" as a film, but time marches on, especially for movie actors. If it were filmed in 2019, I’d cast Oscar Isaac as Ranger. I surmise he could invest the work “Babe” with as much promise as the novels’ character does. For Stephanie, I’d go with Margot Robie of “Suicide Squad.” For Morelli? Anyone but Ryan Reynolds. I don’t mean to diss him, but his eyelashes are just too long for that role. And there’s only one who could do justice to Lula: Leslie Jones.

So, Janet Evanovich, how about it? Are you/are you about to be in talks with a Hollywood producer? If you’d like to answer me directly, my Facebook page is (I’ve tried to find pages for jenny.mcdermott.38, .37, with no success.) Or if you like adult coloring, drop in to my fan page at Ciao.

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 ...