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Step by Step Dahlia: From Garden to Photo Transfer to Encaustic Back to Photo


Greetings!  I’m baaack with a short video on what I did to my favorite September flower: the dahlia.  A famous midwestern newspaperman in the 40’s said “Women should raise more hell and fewer dahlias” but, honestly, I think they are worth the time and effort!

And, speaking of “hell”, it took me forever to get comfortable with podcasting for my other blog, Art of the Diet.  But, finally, I’m into a weekly rhythm and no longer scare the neighbors with shrieking or require an ambulance and an EMT available outside my studio.

I’ve photographed all summer but this is the first photography tutorial I’ve done since June!

At any rate, it’s fitting that I return with a dahlia because next to double sugar tulips (they even look like dahlias) they are one of my favorites to photograph.

Hope your creative juices are flowing and do not require an ambulance on standby!

Click Below to Sign Up for Weekly Studio Hits and Misses!

O, Yoo-hoo!! Creative Souls, Listen & Watch this.


Oh, yoo-hoo!  Creative souls who read this blog, here are three things you might like, even need, to see and to hear.

I am knee deep in wires and condensers and pop screens for microphones and hating the sound of my voice,  but I have run across three fabulous creativity pieces.  The first is a short video on how the above air sculpture by Janet Echelman was erected over the Rose Kennedy Greenway in Boston along and over Atlantic Avenue.   The second is a short video by Ira Glass about creativity and the other, a 30 minute podcast about a sculptor, Arlene Shechet, (Sh-ek-et) whose 20 year retrospective, I just saw at the Institute of Contemporary Art  (after passing under the Janet Echelman sculpture) in Boston. WOWZER is all I can say to both.  Photos don’t do it justice.  One room of the Shechet exhibit, and not even considered her showstopper room, knocked me totally off my pins.  She made large pieces of paper out of cotton and then did stencils and pigment  and plaster and god knows what else to it.  I swooned from one to the other.  Here’s one example:



I left with ideas whizz-banging from one side of my head to another and, to add to the buzz, that very night a podcast, “The Modern Art Notes Podcast”, which I listen to regularly,  released their interview with Arlene Shechet! So, Kismet, indeed.

It was this interview that made me think anyone with artistic leanings might benefit from the part of the interview where she talks about having to reinvent her studio rules of experience to match her life: mother, caregiver of parents, wife, teacher –in other words, she didn’t have all day, every day, to work on her art, and yet she had to figure out “how” to do her art with the time she had for it.  Her choices of material, how she used it, what she didn’t want to do, what she did, was just audio gold to me.

After seeing this exhibit and listening to her process, I thought she articulated reasons for doing art that I’d never heard before but resonated with me and inspired me to redo a few of my rules as well!  Her work is not done justice in photos but, all I can say is, from start to finish of this exhibit, I had a smile on face, not because I understood what the hell she was doing but simply that whatever it was I was smitten.

First, the video showing how the art installation over the streets of Boston was installed one day in May.

Greenway Echelman Sculpture – Installation Time-Lapse – 5.3.2015 from Julian Tryba on Vimeo.


Second,  the short Ira Glass video

THE GAP by Ira Glass from Daniel Sax on Vimeo.


And, here’s the Tyler Green interview with Arlene Shechet on “Modern Art Notes Podcast”.

I’m supposed to start podcasting regularly by Aug 1st and by then I should be back doing my “other” stuff.  In the meantime, I hope your work is going well and will enjoy these three creative snacks.   Sorry, everything is about food these days.


Learning to Podcast . Next? World Peace.

PODCAST-TITLEONLY-[Recovered]tWhat have I been doing?

Learning how to create a weekly podcast out of my daily blog, Art of the Diet, that I’ve been writing since February, 2015 and am committed to do till February, 2016.

Let’s just say learning how to do encaustic photography is a stroll down a country lane compared to this, although, I’ll admit I don’t need a fire extinguisher in the room while learning podcasting online.

But, I’ll share a little of it just in case anyone is crazy enough to want to do their own.

I found some “free” tutorials about podcasting.  There are alot of those.  I chose one whose menu of choices is so high energy pow! pow! I am sure I am going to be receiving emails from him for the rest of my natural life.  No sooner did I click to sign up for a podcast thingie then I was supposed to click on a webcast thingie and then click again for a podcast paradise thingie.

And, then the rotation started over.  I clicked so many times I feel sure NSA thinks it’s a terrorist code signal.

The first thing I actually did, totally out of sequence of what you should do btw, is design the art for the ITUNES directory.   This is my wheelhouse, after all.

And, this turns out to be very important and had I not listened to that particular tutorial I might have gone merrily off into unwise territory and over-designed it for sure.

To demonstrate why I think his tutorial helped me, look at my art in this menu.  I laid it on top of another podcast’s art that I subscribe to.  Since I am no where near uploading the podcast, I show you this as part of how I decided to go with this design.  After every design I did, I superimposed it on this menu to see how it looked.  What was I looking for?

I just wanted to see if it “popped” out of the queue.  Was it readable?  Did it communicate what the podcast is about? Would someone look at it and think (in a good way), “Hmmm…wonder what this is?” Or would someone who had gone to ITUNES looking specifically for it, be able to pick it out?

What do you think?  I think it does what I wanted it to do.  I used Adobe “Illustrator” to do it. I’m no where near as skilled in Illustrator as I’d like to be but minimal skills on some projects turns out to be all you need.

So, now I have to unpack the microphone that just arrived with a “thud” on my doorstep (I love Amazon Prime and its USPS Sunday mail delivery) and figure out “Adobe Audible” which I just downloaded as part of my Creative Cloud membership. has a five hour tutorial. Five flippin’ hours.  The guy whose free podcast tutorial I listened to has a YOUTUBE one that lasts 7 minutes.  Guess which one I’ll do first?






Furry Transfers One and All

Matte Acrylic Medium

Matte Acrylic Medium

Here’s what I know for sure: my wax transfers are looking better and better.

if you want a furry acrylic transfer, I’m your girl.

Or, if you want a solvent transfer that requires Photoshop for life support, get in touch.

The solvent transfers were both weak on textured Rives BFK paper.  Maybe that blender pen is best for black and white or my paper was too textured or my method was messed up but the Citra Solv of the tree on Mulberry paper was better but still not great.  I may try canvas with Citra Solv in the future.  I’ll have to experiment with the blender pen as well.  Word to the Wise: do not use cardboard as your flat transfer surface with solvent as its textures are clearly visible in the transfer. e.g. Citra-Solv tree.

I cannot seem to get the paper off acrylic based transfers.  If I transfer it on to a light paper, like mulberry, I can tear that paper in a blink of an eye and when it totally dries, it fades 70%.

When I use three layers of matte acrylic medium on photocopy as well as transfer surface and let it dry for hours before wetting it, that works the best, but still is fuzzy cuz honest to god I can’t get the pulp off.  It seems to grow replacements as soon as I whisk off the individual paper pieces.

I’m beginning to like the furry look but know for sure I’ll photograph them and then work on them within Photoshop. Add textures. They shall be “pulp” for my creative mill.

Dear  Photoshop & Plug-Ins, It seems, I just can’t quit ya’ no matter what alternative method I use. My next post shall be how these transfers navigated through digital manipulation.


Learning Solvent and Acrylic Photo Transfers. Oi!


Recently, I’ve been doing more fiction reading than anything else. Finally, and I do mean finally , I finished the audio book of  Hilary Mantel’s “Wolf Hall” on my walks & “The Spool of Blue Thread” by Anne Tyler and “Euphoria” by Lily King on the couch with my feet up.

Also, going to art exhibits.  At the MFA in Boston, HOKUSAI, a Japanese painter and printmaker (17600-1849)who makes most of us look like we are dead asleep in the creative output department.  They also had another unrelated exhibit of photographs taken by Japanese photographers following the Tsunami of 2011.  Good lord is all I could say to that exhibit and marvel at those who brought an artist’s eye to the humanity amidst chaos and ruin. The Provincetown Art Association’s Robert Motherwell exhibit was my last museum stop.

All the while ideas for new photo projects were percolating.  I’ve been thinking about doing a cardboard collage in the back of my mind for months.  I had started collecting cardboard boxes several months ago.  They were mounting up in the guest tub like some sort of large bizarre bather with khaki skin tones.

The Robert Motherwell exhibit had one of his collage pieces that consisted of two elements only: a long, vertical jagged-sided piece of cardboard and a robin’s egg blue Galouise cigarette pack positioned centered right, like a boutonniere.  It was deceptively simple in its composition and totally lacking the “I am mystery” composition of many collages, yet, seemed perfect to me.  It’s simplicity delivered a complicated impact.

Usually, most collages are just the reverse to my eye and taste: a deliberate complicated structure and netting of multiple elements that perhaps have a narrative thread but, almost unfailingly, I don’t seem to have the attention span for figuring it out.  The overall initial aesthetic punch doesn’t usually land on me either.   I’m not proud of this, you understand, I can see on second and third look that many seem to be put together with a grand intent as well as a deft touch.   They simply routinely go over or under my aesthetic radar.

The collages of Robert Rauschenberg, however, always show up on my radar screen.  He was another who famously experimented with all manner of every day materials and used cardboard boxes in his early work.  Many of his collage pieces can contain multiple-elements –literally everything but the kitchen sink, and by God, I think I remember he used a sink once, too, but his composition almost always slays me. I couldn’t tell you why.  It just does. Here’s just one example.

Romare Beardon is another artist whose collages combine abstract painting and realism that knocked me out when I saw a large exhibit of his work, many of them collages,  at the National Gallery in Washington, DC.  Here’s one of his.

He was described as using the paint of abstract expressionism and realism of newspaper clippings.  Whatever it is, I can pick out a Romare Beardon collage or a Robert Rauschenber collage, nearly every time I see one, whereas other collage work I have to identify by the card next to it.

At any rate, I have been saving these cardboard boxes thinking about doing a larger scale (for me)  collage in the back of my mind.  Last week I threw out 99% of the boxes and kept only two that i thought might work.  One had FRAGILE written on it.  My preoccupation these days has been the realities of aging and I suspect that was my editor for these boxes.

Since I have always seen “vegetable dye transfer”, “pigment transfer” and “solvent transfer” on Rauschenberg’s work, I’ve decided to experiment with as many transfer techniques that I could research and do on my own.  The only transfer process I am any good at currently involves using wax and that took me at least six months of experimenting so this could be a loooong process.

Rauschenberg was a master of many transfer processes. I’ll read other artists say they began experimenting with transfers in their driveway (air circulation was important!) after seeing his work.  Some have even said that any experimentation in their work with alternative materials came directly from him.

So, maybe that’s why I’ve always been drawn to his stuff.  Don’t know.  But, in that tradition of experimenting with transfer, I am going to try my hand at some methods: acrylic pigment transfer and  solvent transfers using xylene blender pen as well as Citra-solv.  I’ve used the Citra-Solv degreaser years ago on National Geographic magazine pages but have never used it on a color laser photocopy of a photograph of my own.  The YOUTUBE tutorials suggest I can use it, so I’ll try using it.

 I’ll use laser color photocopies of a photo of a tree I’d taken years ago at Valley Forge, Pennsylvania that I had textured in Photoshop for one of the Citra Solv transfers and a yellow pepper laser photocopy for both Citra Solv and xylene blender pen.  They tell you that inkjet photos don’t work.  Finally, I’ll use a laser color photocopy of a white tulip/silver pitcher photo I’d textured and painted within Photoshop.  The latter process involved painting photocopy and transfer surface with three coats of acrylic medium, letting them dry individually,  and then with a final coat of acrylic medium on the transfer surface, put them together and wait 24 hours till they dry before trying to moisten and scrape away the paper.  That process I shall do today after the 24 hour drying period.  It better be good cuz good lord it involved a lot of steps.

So, I’ll start with the faster ones, first.  Ones that I could see I screwed up right away instead of having to wait 24 hours to see that I screwed up.  Solvent transfers on the yellow peppers on Rives BK textured paper.  Then, the Valley Forge tree on a smoother, lighter BK Rives paper. And, o, yes, I actually began with the photo of feet transferred on to Rives BFK paper by applying an acrylic matte and varnish to the photocopy and mounting it on the paper to dry.

One thing I can tell you right now: I cannot get all the paper off of these acrylic transfers.  Another order of patience or skill is required than is currently in my tool box.  Anyway, the next few posts will share some of the transfers and maybe a few transfers on to cardboard just in case that might end up in zee-grand- coakley-collage. Ha.

An Encaustic Birthday Gift of Memory



I know most artists have a goal to exhibit their work.  I’m happy with making a gift of it at this point in my life, and encaustic photography has been my choice of late.

My best friend turns 71 tomorrow.  She has lived in a locked floor of an assisted living “memory” unit for the past four years.  She no longer knows me but I am hoping she might have a shard of memory left of her younger, very athletic self.  She was the best water skier and I know because I was the worst.

I began with a bit of graphite pigment on a warm encaustic 4 X 4 in board.  Added some white oil stick as well as white encaustic paint and then did the photo transfer.  Final stages used oil sticks, pan pastels and oil pastels.  If I could have used the kitchen sink, I would have thrown that in too.  I put her name in India Ink on the finished piece and shall take it to her today along with an African Violet plant.  She used to have an African Violet plant on her hallway table.  PS. I had to use some background music on this one, as it was just killin’ me to look at the photos and hear the silence all at the same time.

Digital Painting with Topaz Impressions



A Different Brush



Once I worked with the Topaz Impressions Plug In for a few months, I’ve noticed I’ve been experimenting with the different brushes within the menu of each painting style choice.  This is a feature where there is a default brush chosen for each style but you can change it if you want.

They have chosen the particular default brush for a reason so experimenting can produce ungodly results but, occasionally, I have found that choosing the “Impasto” overall painting style and experimenting with brushes often produces choices I like.  This one of a bunch of white peonies in a silver pitcher is exhibit A.  I wanted the brush to be a bit more detailed so the folds of the peony blossom could be suggested.  The default brush had less definition and more blur.

This is the original photo.  In between using the Topaz Impressions plug in, I applied a texture to vary the tonal values in the background but in essence this was a three step final result: original photo, textured photo, Impressions Plug In.


Painting Alien Mums Here on Earth

The Art of the Allium

Pat Coakley