Um, Can you tell I had fun with this one? You bet I did!

I have so much to write today.  Good thing I finished fairly early!

So where to begin…

My influence for this style of work absolutely owns it’s origin’s with artist Richard Merkin.


If you click his name above, you can read his bio, but pretty much he was a picture framing customer of my family’s business.  It took many years before he would work with me.  For the first decade he would only work with Bill, my grandfather and fellow illustrator to Richard. Slowly he began to work with my mom “who was no Bill” and then 20 years later he slowly began to work with me “who was no Patty”.  That was how he was.  He didn’t trust you had any talent until he did trust you had talent, then he would only work with you.  What a handful!

So I got to work with Richard Merkin and his amazing art.  Please take a quick glance at this website below to better understand his style:


What I loved about his work was it’s simplicity and confidence.  There are no wishy-washy lines.  He drew with pastels and he knew exactly what he was going to put down before he put it down.  His color use is fabulous.  His negative space is carefully thought out.  Most of his work shows his wry sense of humor yet also tells a story.

This man wore a yellow and red striped beanie and a giant white mustache. And he rocked it.  You could see him coming a mile down the street.  Brightly colored, absolutely funky, tremendously confident.  He made you want to step aside.  I adored his confidence.

The older I get, the crazier my clothing seems to get.  I owe this to him.  I would simply observe him and I realized if you act like what you are doing is perfectly normal, like you just happen to be “SPECIAL”, people seem to go along with it.  By the time I am in my 60’s, I plan on wearing cat-eyed glasses, feathers and ridiculous patterns (oh, wait I already do!).


Where as Merkin used pastels, I love using wax crayons & watercolors.  I have to make it my own, but what I take from him is the flat 2-D planes of color, exact &  simplified lines, and a careful consideration of negative space. I am a true lover of pattern, so I add that in any chance I get as well.

Here are some other works of mine influenced by Richard Merkin:


He is no longer with us, but absolutely unforgettable.  He has left his mark.


Let me talk about the premise of my painting.

The subject is a commentary on those who buy art, or shall I say those who are not buying art?

I have been going to art shows since I could walk. The rooms were always filled with eccentrics.  Crazy little outfits.  Crazy personalities and egos and the very normal and traditional as well. At my moms art shows, I can remember this 80 year old couple.  They showed up to every event, dressed to the nines and parked themselves in front of the caviar religiously.  We loved having them.  They were part of the whole experience. This painting celebrates these fun happenings.

Now, I get it, this wasn’t a part of everyone’s upbringing.  This just happened to be what was important to my family. But what I would like to address is what I seem to find missing in a lot (not all) of my generation.

It’s the patronage of the arts.

This is my plea.

Hopefully I am not about to lose every friend I own, but here it goes…


One’s home should be a reflection of one’s interests.  When you enter one’s home, you should be able to learn more about the owner’s personality and their values.

If your art comes with or matches your couch, what is it telling people is important to you? your couch?

Are you an aficionado of music, dance, politics, antiques, cuisine, sports, the environment, animals? Are you showing the world this throughout your home?  or is there only a big black box on the wall?

What are you teaching your children?

What will they learn is important about our culture in the upcoming century?

Is it Ughs. Ipods. Louis Vuitton bags?

Dinner out twice, could be an investment in art that could hang on your walls for a lifetime and be passed onto the next generation.

What is in your homes that would be worth passing on?

I’m pretty sure it’s not from Pottery Barn.

I am sorry.  This is strong. It’s very judgmental.

 I do hope you understand there is absolutely nothing wrong with Pottery Barn!

I am using “Pottery Barn” as a blanket term for mass-produced aesthetics. Something that you and your neighbor would both have thus making the object less original or unique.

What this has to do with is a current change in values as the recent eldest generation begins to pass.

People in the past really saved and sacrificed to own what few belongings they had.  For this reason, they really meant something, were very well-made and passed down as heirlooms.

What my generation has inherited is a disposable way of life.

I ask you to take a good look around your home and pay attention to your investments.

We have to decide what legacy we will be passing on to the next generation.  What is important to us as humans, what should be celebrated? We need to make sure that this is what we are reflecting.

Otherwise, this is it.

The days of investing in art will fade like the fake-painting that matches the couch.

To be disposed of in a few short years and replaced with the same thing.


websites like:






Have affordable options that differentiate you from everyone else. We are all unique, our surroundings should reflect it.

Please don’t hate my harsh remarks, I just ask that YOU, people of my generation, YOU define what you find aesthetically pleasing or thoughtfully provocative.  Please do not place that decision in the hands of a mass-market merchandiser.  I know there is more to all of us than this.

Find your voice and hang it on your walls!

Ok. I’m now stepping down from my soapbox. :)


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I am amassing quite the collection of bird paintings.  I already did two other robin paintings, but they didn’t seem to fit with all the other paintings in the group. So, I just made another!

Now I have 8 bird paintings I am quite fond of.  I think they’d make for a beautiful kitchen.  I paid careful attention to all of the backgrounds to make sure that none were the same, yet all would flow together harmoniously.

It will be great, I can bird-watch indoors and out!

This is what I have so far:

IMG_6614#87 - THE SEAGULL - Long Walk Off a Short Pier (1)


#96 - THE BLUE JAY (1)#91 - SAY HELLO TO MY LITTLE FREIND - THE Hummingbird (1)

I have been creating the birds first out of cardboard from my recycling, second with bees wax crayon and finally, a wash of watercolor.  There are so many bird images in the world, I figured this technique would force me to make something unique.

My question to those of you reading this post is, should I make them a set of 8 or a set of 12?  I still have some bird favs, but I am not sure if I should just move on or create more… As an audience, any opinions on the matter?  See more birds or see something new?

 I’ve kind of felt indecisive for the past few days…I’m not sure why.

To bird or not to bird, this is the question.

Oh well, I guess I’ll have to sleep on it!


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#96 - THE BLUE JAY (1)

The blue jay has such a bad rep.

  Anytime I talk to bird enthusiasts they say the same thing.  Blue jays are a pain in the neck.  They are so aggressive, they scare all the other birds away and they eat other bird species eggs right out of their nests.

Ahh, the blue jay in my yard isn’t that bad. In fact, they are primarily vegetarians.  Granted, I don’t see many birds sharing the bird feeder with ’em!

Call the Blue Jay what you’d like, it is still very exciting to see one.  I mean look at its feathers, they are gorgeous.  They look like a blue mosaic.

I looked up another interesting tidbit of information.

Blue Jays perform a strange ritual called “anting”.

The birds find an ant colony and lay themselves on top of it.  Sometimes they pick up the ants with their beak and spread them in their wings.

Why on earth would they do that?

From what I have gathered, they do this to enable the ants to remove parasites from their plumage, or to force the ants to secrete formic acid which could act as a bacteria and parasite repellant or they force the ants to unload the formic acid which is distasteful so they can eat the ants.

Either way, strange phenomenon.  I will be looking for this activity.  Once and a while I catch my little boy spread eagle on the driveway…I wonder…is he anting or just sunning himself?

So the blue jay may not be the world’s favorite, but again I always like the underdog…or in this case the under-bird!


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When I think of Northern Cardinals, I never think of just a male or female, I think of the two of them together.  A perfect team.

Whenever I see a cardinal in my yard I know that its mate is nearby, within ten feet.  Never are they apart.  I watch their dance.  One feeds while the other stands lookout.  Then they switch. Always watching out for one another. They mate for life. A perfect team.

A month from now, my yard will be filled with baby Cardinals.  Their daddy teaches them their song. Shows them how to forage and how to look out for one another. The female recovers from giving birth. A perfect team.

This is what I take from their nature:  Always be there for one another.  Figure out what each of your roles are and then work together to attain them. Be a perfect team.

I love that I am never wrong.  Never.  When I see a cardinal, I always see its mate. I can count on it.

So much to observe in so little a creature.


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#94 - Baltimore Oriole (1)

OMG.  Do I love this mint green and hot pink together.  Makes me want to paint my walls!

Today I picked the Baltimore Oriole because as you know, I am a color addict and the Oriole is one of the most colorful birds to grace my yard.

I do not get many Baltimore Orioles.  The only place I have ever seen them is in my Japanese Quince bush.   I can’t think of anything more glorious than the bright orange & black bird against the coral & hot pink flowers. YOWZA!  If you are looking to plant a decorative bush, the birds love the Quince.  It is very dense and bramblly which creates protection for the birds. The flowers are gorgeous in the spring, it grows a small fruit the birds love and it has a pretty leaf.

So, I did a little research on the Baltimore Oriole.  Did you know how it got it’s name?

Of course I thought of the city in Maryland right?… – WRONG.

Baltimore Orioles got their name from their bold orange-and-black plumage: they sport the same colors as the heraldic crest of England’s Baltimore family.

Huh.  Based on a family crest.  You learn something new every day!

The other thing I learned, was to leave oranges out by your bird feeder to attract Baltimore Orioles.

Baltimore Oriole are particularly interested in oranges. Photo: Deborah Jean Cohen

I did not know this.  Give it 2-3 more weeks and I’ll have oranges all over my yard!

With the coming of spring I get so excited.  I certainly hope to attract some of these fine feathered beauties.

#94 - Baltimore Oriole (2)


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Deja vu?  I know, I know, if you have been following my bird series then you know I already did a goldfinch.  In fact, I can save you on more dialogue by referring you to POST #88 – AMERICAN GOLDFINCH to learn my thoughts and ideas on goldfinches.

So why did I do another you ask?

Well, compared to all the birds so far:

IMG_6614 #87 - THE SEAGULL - Long Walk Off a Short Pier (1) #89 - Hope is the thing with feathers -ROBIN (1) #89 - Hope is the thing with feathers -ROBIN (2) IMG_6783 #91 - SAY HELLO TO MY LITTLE FREIND - THE Hummingbird (1) #93 - THE AMERICAN GOLDFINCH REVISITED x

This picture of a goldfinch:

#88 - GOLDFINCH (1)

Didn’t really seem to fit in.  There is nothing wrong with it, I just felt like the bird wasn’t as much of a highlight as I would have liked and since I have 273 days left of my CREATIVITY CHALLENGE.  Why not do it again if I so chose to?

Yeah, that’s why, plain and simple.  I wanted to.

Now are there any opinions from the nut gallery as to which one they like better?

I’m all alone here, so since I’m at it, I will ask for a little feedback on the crayon with watercolor technique.  How does it come off?  Polished or too cartoon-like?

I’ll tell you why I’ve been using this medium for the past 8 some-odd days.  It is really teaching me discipline and simplicity.  In order to use the thick crayons, I really have to bring my drawing down to as few lines as possible.  Streamlining you’d might say.   When you force yourself to streamline you become very deliberate which I think shows a little more confidence in your work. I think as I heavily consider each line, the images are getting stronger and stronger.  I’m figuring out which lines to create in crayon and which to just leave to the paint. I will move on to something else for a while I’m sure, but I will take the precision with me.

BTW.  During this bird series I changed a few of my materials.  The thick rectangle Stockmar crayons were too cumbersome when trying to create in small sizes.

#60 - Not your kids crayons

So I went to my trusted source: SOUTH COUNTY ART SUPPLY and asked Andrea Peitsch, the owner, what I could do about it.  She found me The Faber-Castell 24 count Beeswax crayons.  They are a high quality crayon, they come in stick form, are smooth and the color selection is terrific.  Thank you South County Art Supply!!!

Also as a recommendation from Andrea, I converted from Windsor-Newton watercolors to M. Graham watercolors.  The prices are a little lower and the quantities are larger.  Best watercolor paint brandsSo far, I am really happy with their product.  There were a few pigments I couldn’t find, so I will stick to Windsor Newton for those, but for the amount of paint I am going through these days, it suits me fine to find a high quality watercolor in larger quantities.

So Again:

Thank you South County Art Supply

I’m so glad to have them in town!


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#91 – SAY HELLO TO MY LITTLE FREIND – The Hummingbird

#91 - SAY HELLO TO MY LITTLE FREIND - THE Hummingbird (1)

The smallest bird in the world, as well as one of my favorites.

There is nothing like sitting on your porch on a summer’s day and hearing the sound.  It is a subtle vibration sound. Maybe like the sound of a 3inch bumble bee?  If you do not know the sound, you probably will continue on with what you were doing, but for those of us who love hummingbirds, you stay still and take in the area; a hummingbird is close.

I had a difficult time attracting hummingbirds to my yard last year.  I had these three hummingbird feeders that were glass globes.  They looked like Christmas balls filled with Koolaid.  The hummingbirds hated them.  They would hover around them, circle once or twice and then take off.  After close examination, I think they couldn’t find the tiny holes they were to drink from as well as there wasn’t a perch.  I read the hummingbirds do like to perch when drinking the “nectar”.  I was bummed, by the end of the summer, the only thing those globes fed were the ants and the bees.  Not exactly what I wanted to attract to my patio…

But, there was one thing that saved the summer.

Every year my father plants Cannas flowers.  My step mother and I usually pick on him because the tropical flower looks so weird in a New England flower bed.  After planting some in one of my planters, I take it back.  the hummingbirds loved them!  It was the only way I got to see hummingbirds last summer.

My mother was introduced to hummingbirds care of my step father David.  He steadily filled his hummingbird feeder day after day, year after year, and wound up with a pair of hummingbirds that came back to his same feeder year after year.  He named them Pepe and Jaunita.  He passed away ten years ago, yet every spring we assemble on his back deck and greet Pepe and Jaunita as they return for the summer.

I just love the sound they make.  You can feel them as they wiz by.  All of that energy in such a teeny-tiny package.

Such a fabulous bird.

#91 - SAY HELLO TO MY LITTLE FREIND - THE Hummingbird (2)


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Happy Easter!  Since I’m doing birds, is there any bird more associated with Easter than the spring chick?

The cardboard box refers to the countless schools around the world that participate in the phenomenon of watching eggs hatch.  I just love the excitement of little kids when the eggs come into the classroom.  They are taught about what is inside and they learn they must wait 21 days for something to emerge.  And thus begins the count.  Each day you peak in at the eggs, they look the same day after day…and then one day there are tiny holes, the eggs rock back and forth, occasionally a peep sound comes from inside the egg.  You know today is the day and yet hours go by as you patiently watch a little bird fight to free itself from its shell.  Not much schoolwork takes place on this day because the excitement cannot be contained, all focus is on watching and waiting.

True to its word, 21 Days later, the chicks are born. An enigma kids can not really understand, yet have the pleasure of observing.

The mystery of life.

Oh, and then there is the following week when you get to hold them, they are fuzzy, they poop on the floor and all the kids giggle….It’s just awesome to witness the eyes of babes.

When I was in college, I bought my mom this little stuffed animal chick that chirped when you placed it in your hand.  No big deal, it was Easter, it was cute, so what.  As a college kid months go by before you return home again.  Upon my return I found this little chicky by my mothers bedside – how cute.  Years went by and I found this little chick by my mothers bedside.

I began to realize that the cutesy little stuffed animal chick had taken on more than a holiday token.  Upon closer attention, I realized a photo of my sister and I in summer camp ten years before also graced the same nightstand.  This was a little shrine.  When my mother went to sleep and when she woke, these were the little things she glanced at.

Now that I am a mom, I have little items around the house too.  There are two thumbnail sized monsters my son put in my shower.  Each time I see them I think of him clogging up my shower creating a swimming pool and I gush with love for him.  I have a miniature school bus in my  windowsill.   Each time I glance at that, I can envision my daughters smiley face as she sings “Here comes the bus” Instead of “Here Comes the Sun” from George Harrison of the Beatles.  Watching her sing as the bus pulled away was one of those moments when you get outside of yourself for a moment and just see the absolute divine beauty in your life.  A tiny school bus figurine can bring me there in my head.

So I think of my moms little Easter chick sitting on her nightstand.  Dusty and nonfunctional with age and as a mother I now know, that this little chick probably makes her think of me.  So when I think of the little spring chicks now, I understand just how much I am loved.

We don’t need silly little icons to remember one another, but over time, things get left around or behind and memories get associated with them. My mother doesn’t need the beat up chick that I’m pretty sure my little ones have gotten hold of and ruined by now anyway. Nor do I need little monster toys or a school bus.

As parents we are the vessels for these memories and for love. Nothing more is needed.

There is beauty in that.

#90 - Chicks ina box


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#89 - Hope is the thing with feathers -ROBIN (1)

#89 - Hope is the thing with feathers -ROBIN (2)

What better for Easter weekend then a little reminder of spring.  With the coming of the robin comes the thawing of the earth.  For if a robin can find a worm, the earth must be teeming with life. After freezing in my man-cave for many a month, the phrase that comes to mind is HOPE SPRINGS ETERNAL.

Looney Tunes Image :  Road RunnerMy number one visual of the American Robin is a road runner.  I think of the Looney Tune bird racing across my yard.  Darting here and there.  Boy are those robins quick!  And I am forever amazed at how many worms they get!

While hunting around for interesting tidbits on robins, I came across a webpage devoted to robins through the poetry of Emily Dickinson.  As a child in New England we were all forced to read Dickinson.  Force me to do anything and I will resist!  But now, 20 years later, sitting in my chair sipping coffee, gazing out into my little yard, Emily Dickinson’s words have found new meaning.  She paints with words.  I never saw it until now, but every sentence conjures up such beautiful images for me.  I thought I’d share two favorites:


“Hope” is the thing with feathers –
That perches in the soul –
And sings the tune without the words –
And never stops — at all –

And sweetest — in the Gale — is heard –
And sore must be the storm –
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm –

I’ve heard it in the chillest land –
And on the strangest Sea –
Yet, never, in Extremity,
It asked a crumb — of Me.

The Robin is a Gabriel
In humble circumstances –
His Dress denotes him socially,
Of Transport’s Working Classes –
He has the punctuality
Of the New England Farmer –
The same oblique integrity,
A Vista vastly warmer –

A small but sturdy Residence
A self denying Household,
The Guests of Perspicacity
Are all that cross his Threshold –
As covert as a Fugitive,
Cajoling Consternation
By Ditties to the Enemy
And Sylvan Punctuation –

Mmm. Letting that soak in.  As a painter, I love the wrens, the nuthatches, the robins, but they are brown, black, blah…. (not really-but you get my point) I understand fully their feathers are perfection.  Evolutionarily speaking, their feathers help them blend into their environ effortlessly.  But as the artist, we want them to stand out.  We want to call attention to them through our work, but their very essence is not to stand out.

I love to be in a gaze, staring at nothing really, but as I tune in, I realize the earth is moving.  from under the dead brown leaves come tons of little birds, who just a moment before I couldn’t see.  Then I am reminded, that us humans, if we choose the undertaking, are the earth’s observers.  We are here to consciously observe.  Such a very difficult job, when our brains can do so many things at once, but this is what birds do for me.  They slow down my thoughts and they force me to observe that there is a whole world out there that has nothing to do with human interaction.  This gives me solace.

#89 - Hope is the thing with feathers -ROBIN (5)#89 - Hope is the thing with feathers -ROBIN (3)#89 - Hope is the thing with feathers -ROBIN (4)


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#88 - GOLDFINCH (1)

When I think of the American Goldfinch I instantly think of Coreopsis and when I think of Coreopsis I think of my other friends the grasshopper and the praying mantis.  All one big happy family in my yard.

At my last house, I filled my front yard with Coreopsis or what a friend of mine calls tick seed.  It is a very wild and unruly plant.  I pretty much used it because for every one plant, you get 5 plants the next year.  This made my front yard quite affordable.


But there wound up being another reason  -the amazing amount of wildlife attracted to my flowerbeds right in the center of town.  I found this photo too, to give you an idea of how “city like” my old front yard could be.

MarysCamera 175

I thought this was hilarious.  I opened my door and there seemed to be delivery men approaching…

So let’s just say the front yard could be rather boisterous and bustling…

After 4-5 years I had created a 20 foot border of Coreopsis, lavender, Ghalardia, daylillies, pretty much anything people were giving away.  I’d call it a wildflower garden….  Wild being the definitive term.

What I remember so fondly was sitting out front with my little ones as they would catch over twenty grasshoppers at a time.  Then they would count the praying mantises, sometimes ten, sometimes fifteen!  Lot’s of snails on our old granite wall too.

#88 - GOLDFINCH (2)

But the best, was the goldfinches.  If you stayed really quiet and really still they would come and eat the seed heads off the Coreopsis right in front of you.  The birds were light enough to actually perch at the tops of the flowering plants.

We were in the center of this crazy village yet in our own little cocoon with the birds and the bees.  Yep the bees were there too.

I know many of my friends wondered how I could live with my front steps being a town-bus stop.  Coffee cups left out on my wall.  Sometimes worse.  For the most part I didn’t notice.  I found myself surrounded by so much nature.  I had a large lilac hedge and very old Japanese Quince bushes that the Baltimore Orioles adored.  Life was pretty good.

Of course my kids got a little older and wanted to bike ride and play. At that point our little house in the center of town needed to go to another young kid-less couple who loved the idea of walking to the little shops in the village.

We are off the main road now.  In a quiet place. Perfect for bike riding and playing, yet still close enough to walk into town. And I have inherited some new amazing gardens from the previous homeowner… All  is good.

But when I think of my old house, I will always think of the Coreopsis and all the great treasures hiding in it.

One other funny little story.  We had an aunt who came to visit at our old house.  She disappeared for some time and then came running into the house.  She was telling me I had to look at my front yard.  She was sure I had some pet store birds loose in my garden.  That cracked me up, I knew exactly what she was talking about.  Most pet stores have beautiful finches for sale. I laughed and told her, these are the wild kind.

The Beautiful American Goldfinch.


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