05 March 2014

work in progress

I took out an acrylic painting I'd begun awhile ago ~ two years or so ~ and decided to try something new with it. I tested out an application of liquid masking and rather liked the effect after washing over it with darker colors. Above you can see the result on the right and the newly applied masking dots on the left (not painted over or rubbed off yet). These pictures are just a corner of the whole piece.

The entire canvas is fairly large, which I'll show you next. The original painting was rather exuberant and somehow I felt in the mood to carry that forward, but hoped to connect some of the elements that were previously only sketched in or contained only washes of color. The only problem was that I wasn't sure what I wanted.

So, I tried something new and cut out shapes in painters tape to see the outlines of what I might try. 

It seemed to give a general idea and a sort of jungle began to grow. The only problem was that I could not easily see the areas I'd already done in masking fluid so some of it was guesswork. I also wasn't sure if the masking would work out. I've painted with very little water using regular masking tape to create straight lines, but have never tried a fairly watery wash with painters tape.

Here's another part of the canvas with masking fluid dots painted on. The larger green and blue circles are painted rice paper that I'd applied earlier with matte medium. I plan to put blues and purples on top to let these lighter colors show through. Hopefully it will suggest a night sky or the surface of some rock formations or something interesting and imaginative.

The fun of digital editing ~ when I changed the photo to black and white, it reminded me of a lunar surface.

Next steps are to go wild, throw a lot of paint on top and see what happens! But before I go, here are a couple more parts of the original painting before they go.

14 February 2014

spirograph for saint valentine

I realize that in other parts of the world, Valentine's Day is only celebrated with your romantic partner, but where I work (at a K-8th grade school in California), the day is taken more in the spirit of: Hooray! Cards, Candy and Trinkets for All!

So I decided to make valentines for my colleagues and my students, and this year I decided to use my childhood Spirograph kit. I loved playing with this when I was in grade school myself. Watching the patterns appear as your pen goes around the spiral is a little bit like magic.

They don't always work out quite right. Every once in a while the pen slips. But overall, the patterns are really beautiful and fascinating.

If you've never used a Spirograph set before, it works like this:

After choosing one of the large rings and one of the small discs, the large ring is secured with tacks on top of the drawing paper (there's a base of thick cardboard underneath). The disc of choice can go either inside or outside the ring, and there are many small holes to choose from where you put your pen. After that, just roll around the ring until the design meets up with itself again.

You can also change pen color and new designs can be created by shifting to a different hole in the disc. All the holes on the rings and discs are numbered so if you make something really cool you can duplicate it again later.

After I doodled a whole bunch of different designs, I cut them out and glued them on to red paper, added a little greeting with a heart sticker, and voila' ~ fun, mathematical valentines were ready for delivery.

A few of the designs...
Since no two were exactly alike, the kids enjoyed comparing the cards. A few wanted to learn how to do it, so I'll have to bring my Spirograph set in one day. I have quite a vintage set; some of the new versions for sale look pretty sweet.

My childhood Spirograph ~ so fun to use it again.

Wishing everyone a happy day of Saint Valentine!

02 February 2014


The Super Bowl is on. But as I mentioned a few years ago, I kind of prefer Superb Owl.

SF MOMA has been tweeting #superbowl images of superb owl artworks in their collection, so I thought I'd add the questioning owls from my recent Sketchbook Project to the celebration of the day.

This was one of my dad's haiku poems that made me smile. I hope you'll check the sketchbook out if you're ever at the Art House Library in Brooklyn since this isn't the greatest photo and the owls actually have a bit more color and detail. (You might find them to be more superb).

The game goes on, and here I'll give a little cheer for the underdogs in this game ~ Go Broncos! :)

26 January 2014

Sketchbook Project 2014

Just in time, I completed my book for the Sketchbook Project 2014 and mailed it off. Alas, in my rush  to the post office to make the deadline there was no time to scan all my pages properly. I had to make do with some quick iPhone shots and I've finally posted them on flickr

This year I chose the theme, "This is not about me." On one of the first pages, I wrote this little explanation of the book's contents:

This is not about me.
This book is in remembrance of my father, A.W.S., who passed away in the last days of summer, 2013. We were lucky to enjoy one very intense, stressful, hopeful and sad year together ~ my dad, my sister and me united in the fight to extend his time with us. We all became closer than ever before, and one surprise he revealed shortly before he left was that he wrote haiku poetry. To me, they reflect his childhood in the Midwest and his time as a young man in Japan. I decided to preserve them here.

I selected 23 of his poems and arranged them by type: winter, life & love, summer and autumn. I'm very happy that some of my father's poems will be shared and preserved this way. We never collaborated on anything artistic while he was alive, but I think he would be happy with this little book with my drawings and his poems living together.

My book will be going on the California tour. I look forward to seeing it again this summer!

02 January 2014

a new year!

Hello and Happy 2014!

I've been away so long it's almost hard to know where to start. The past year was sad and terrible. My father lost his battle with cancer and we said good bye in September. These holidays were hard without him, even though I had the love and support of all my family around me. I know I am very blessed to have many wonderful people in my life, and I count all the lovely people I've met through this blog too. 

The new year is here and I have arrived to a place where my mind and heart are a little freer and happily, I found the space to create some art again. 

My first painting for the new year is this watercolor of a quilt my grandmother made. I've always loved it, and I found it again recently when I was cleaning my dad's house. Family has been such an important part of the past year that I decided to make a painting of it since seeing it always makes me happy.

I hope that each of you have a wonderful new year surrounded by people and things that make you happy. Let's have a beautiful 2014!

17 July 2013

watercolor bunny

After receiving Apolonia's gorgeous package of art cards she so generously sent from France I was very charmed by the rabbit she drew and painted on the envelope. Gazing at its large, expressive eyes and perfect, round proportions made me remember my own bunny pet and I was inspired to make a small portrait of my late little friend and companion, Tama-chan. (She made us all so happy but passed away unexpectedly one night in her sleep earlier this year. We were devastated for weeks.) 

I realized that finally, enough time had passed that I felt I could create a little portrait of her to see every day and recall her sweet and spunky nature. It had been a while since I had painted with watercolors but everything returned very naturally and I'm happy with the result.

So I have to thank Apolonia, her giveaway contest and her kind emails for getting me back to painting again. Life has been throwing so many things in the way of my creative time that I feel quite buoyed to have started and finished this little work. This was an unexpected 'extra' gift to the giveaway ~ thank you!

14 July 2013

mailbox: from apolonia of st~ainolopa

Lucky, lucky me! I entered Apolonia's card giveaway and... I won! As soon as I opened the envelope I was utterly in love with the rabbit she drew for me. Its shape is so adorable and its big, thoughtful eye pulled me in right away. Love at first sight! And her signature bright colors look so good.

The little card to the right of the bunny is her business card. Such a nice one! The image is the same as on her blog header and on the other side there are several links that I'll share with you here because I think you may enjoy her art as much as I do:

blog. st-ainolopa.com
twitter. twitter.com/stainolopa
etsy. etsy.com/shop/stainolopa

Do visit all three!

Just look what she sent to me. They are printed so nicely and the quality of the card paper is very nice ~ a good, heavy weight.

On her etsy shop she sells these very greeting cards with her unique, colorful animals on them, plus many more designs. And right now she is offering free shipping, so it's a good chance to stop by!

Her characters are so quirky and imaginative, I keep admiring these cards she set me again and again. Each has a very distinct personality, so I've been thinking about what friend should receive what card and on what occasion. (Of course, I'm thinking of far-off occasions now as I don't want to part with them yet!).

Thank you, Apolonia, for this generous and uplifting giveaway prize! I'm really inspired by your work. It has made me very happy!

19 May 2013

ink & pouring medium experiment

I've had this pouring medium sitting on my shelf for quite a while and finally decided to try it out and see what it does. I used an Ampersand watercolor panel but later realized that it was kind of a waste since the pouring medium doesn't really need the panel's special properties of absorbency and such. However, it was nice to have a clean, white and sturdy surface.

I had a selection of inks to use and decided to dropper the ink straight in; in the future I think I'd like a more subtle look so will try pre-blending the color with the medium before putting it on a canvas.

I had the idea that the medium might dry in a thick layer of I blocked it from coming off the edges, so I got some clear packing tape and made a rim around the edge of the panel. Then I poured a little medium down and put some drops of ink in it.

When I tilted the panel, the ink ran and started to blend in some interesting rivulets, but I could see that I'd need more pouring medium to fill the surface.

So I tried a few more drops of color and added a little more pouring medium. The tape on the edges seemed to be working.

I liked it at this stage, but I had to keep tilting the panel in various directions to cover the whole surface.

By the time the entire surface was covered, the ink had spread quite a bit more and it looked like this. I figured that for a first experiment, this was a good place to stop even though it would be interesting to add more layers. I thought it best that this one dry first.

And I was right because gravity was at work and the pouring medium was seeping out from under the tape in one corner. I lifted the panel on blocks to dry so that the drips wouldn't cause the panel to stick to the paper underneath. I was also curious about painting with these excess drips, but as you can see, when I put a brush through the drops and spread them around they became quite transparent. Also, some of the residue remained in the shape of the drop of the brush itself, which was interesting. It was too sticky for me to feel very comfortable with it as a paint.

Since it was dripping anyway, and since I had the panel raised, I decided to cut the tape edge off and let the medium flow off the edge.

Somehow, in the process of removing the tape, I got bubbles in the pouring medium. I tried to pop one but it only flattened a little. I decided they were an interesting texture and left the rest alone.

As it was drying, I decided to check what would happen if I added some paper to the surface. I cut some yellow tissue paper in tiny leaf shapes (tissue paper because I hoped for some transparency) and laid them on the sticky surface. As it dried, they stuck fast. Also, the surface became increasingly shiny and hard.

I ended the experiment there but plan to try putting on another layer with color already mixed into the medium so I have more control over it. I also want to try perhaps drawing on this layer with a Sharpie and/or putting a collage image down before pouring the new medium on top. I think it could be pretty interesting to create a couple layers that are each sealed in by a new pouring. The transparent nature of each layer could make some neat effects.

I don't care for the glossy surface, but maybe some matte medium as the final layer will handle that? Future experiments await!

28 April 2013

spring blooms & garden notes

"I perhaps owe having become a painter to flowers." -- Claude Monet

Spring is a time of year when I wish I didn't work and could just hang out in the garden, painting the view. I'm so pleased that my irises are starting to bloom, along with just about everything else in my garden. I received a large variety of irises from a friend last fall, planted them and have been hoping they'd be happy and thrive. The one above is one of my favorites and the one below is a new bloom for me called "Hers". All their ruffles and folds remind me of fancy dresses and their colors are inspiring me to paint in watercolor.

I also have the idea to make a little notebook of my irises, marking where they're planted and how the blooms look of the different varieties. I've made some maps of my plantings but keep misplacing them as they're not in a book. The irises that get the morning sun seem to be doing the best, but a botanical drawing book of notes could help me keep track and get them all to do well.

I moved one grapevine to a new location, hoping it would fare a bit better than it has in previous years. In the meantime, the other vine (which has always been the swarthier, more vigorous plant) has shot off in all directions and is sprouting signs of future grape clusters in most promising way. Aren't they cute?

I've photographed the lavender at the end of its bloom, but it's still pretty. I've another variety of lavender that is getting ready to bloom. It's all shoots and buds, ready to spring into color. I can't wait.

I bought a new plant and already forgot its name. If anyone knows what this one is below, I'd be happy to be reminded. It has been blooming for a month now and grows as a tidy, spherical bush. I like the bluish tint to its leaves and the long-lasting flowers.

The azaleas really went crazy while I was on a trip to Oregon, so when I came back they weren't quite as fresh but they're still quite bold. They make this beautiful display every year and light up my courtyard. Since they blossom at the same time as all the roses, it becomes quite colorful.

We'll finish the tour with a quieter plant, the wisteria. She really peaked a few weeks ago, but is still putting on a pretty show. I missed photographing the cascades of blossoms that attracted so many bees a little while ago.

I've been wanting to paint on several canvases that are quietly blank, waiting for me to help them say something meaningful to the world. All the colors and shapes of these blossoms, especially the abstract shapes and negative spaces do inspire!

07 April 2013

mineral pigments

The local art store recently started carrying Daniel Smith watercolors, so I went to their "testing day" to try out some of the new colors. Most of my watercolor paints are Daniel Smith brand, which I like because their pigment is very intense and a little goes a long way with very reliable color. One of the things I was most interested to see was the mineral and rock display that the rep brought along. As you can see above, it wasn't the most organized collection but it was quite interesting nevertheless.

Here's a fuchsite mineral with a wash of the watercolor made from it.

This one is rhodonite - mineral and watercolor.

Rhodonite makes a good color to paint something like these roses, perhaps. (Slipping in another garden pic here!) :)

I enjoyed finding the paint that matched the mineral sample, but it wasn't easy to do since there were tubes scattered everywhere. I really thought the gems were beautiful and interesting since they weren't cut or polished.

Here are some of the colors I checked out. I didn't photograph it, but one of the new colors that I liked best was interference gold. It looked very pretty layered on top of a color, adding depth and sparkle at the same time.

06 March 2013


I studied drawing long ago at an artist's school on Whidbey Island in Washington State, but now I need to fill in some basic art credits to wrap up my graphic design studies. So, I'm spending my Saturdays in a beginning drawing class and drawing, drawing, drawing. It's pretty fun. I always like the interaction with the other students - chatting and comparing everyone's interpretation and approach to the same subject. I've been quite impressed with some of their work. This one gal who studied art in Korea is really amazing.

The class focuses mainly on duplication, which is not exactly what I hoped for because I feel that my weakness is that I tend to be too accurate. I can get all the angles, sizes and shades right, but I wish I could do that with freer strokes and not lose expression due to all the precision. I think I'd rather have an emotionally strong piece than a technically strong one, wouldn't you? That's what I'd like to work on as an artist.

Precision has its place, of course, and I am enjoying the fact that I'm getting faster at being precise. The still life of the bouquet on the chair seemed to materialize under my pencils, which was quite exciting, and let me tell you, it's extremely accurate. (Boringly so?) ...I enjoyed more the white-on-black drawing of the skeleton where I could play with the texture of the skull, and the free-flowing exercises -- drawing tools with squiggles and one-minute model sketches.

I wish I had completed a singular piece to share with you that I really loved, but that doesn't seem to be the nature of this class. The exercises are useful, but as you can see they're not resulting in incredible art. I can't even share all the work with you because some of it we had to copy parts from famous works, magazines and movie stills, so the art is not exactly original. It's kind of strange to do a class again after all this time. In recent years I've been mostly painting and creating purely from my own imagination and ideas.

Do you artists out there have any drawing exercises that you particularly enjoy? Or was there something you learned that helped you branch away from your usual style? I'd be interested to know!

05 February 2013

hello again

I've finally emerged from a winter hibernation and with the new year already in full swing, I'm ready for a fresh start. But first, I must catch up with the many enjoyable tasks that fell by the wayside while I was reeling from the dismaying clobbering that 2012 gave me. I can only hope those who have been waiting for these projects will forgive my delays; meanwhile, I intend to take the remaining ones up, one by one, until I'm all caught up and ready for entirely new things this (hopefully more gentle) year.

So, an embarrassing number of months later, I'm mailing off the little accordion art book collaboration started by Valeria Poropat in Rome. After the book traveled around Europe, the U.S. and Canada, Jeannine Saylor sent it to me last summer for me to add my page, which I did... eventually. 

I was inspired by a quietly alert deer that I met near Pismo Beach in the woods behind our house. I first noticed the very fresh deer droppings I'd nearly stepped in, then looked up to see huge, soft brown eyes staring at me. It was early in the morning and no one else was awake, just the two of us under the oaks on a quiet hillside. The moment stayed with me, so I added it to this thoughtful collection. Here you can see the work contributed by the other artists:

Valeria Poropat, Tatjana Odovic, Jules Young, Anika Starmer
Lisa Grabenstetter, Jessica Gowling, Jeannine Saylor, Kimi Kobashi
I'm sending the book on to the poetic Thuraya Lynn in Kuwait, who I imagine will add some mysterious black-and-white drawings of sly characters making mischief in their own worlds... we shall see if my guess is close or not!

In the meantime, I wish you all much peace, satisfaction and creativity this bright new year...

xo kimi

06 December 2012

guess who?

I designed two posters recently. Each one represents a different artist/designer. I think they're pretty obvious, but would you like to guess who?

Here's the first one:

Not too hard, hm? Several giveaways in that image.

Here's the second one:

OK, so he's actually an architect but they're designers too...

These were made using Illustrator and took about an hour each. I do like to play with vector art every once in a while -- they were a nice break from the very organic and texture-ridden acrylic canvases I'm working on (that I shall share soon!).

Well, I'm sure that everyone could figure out who these posters represent, but I'll give the answers anyway. The first one is Frida Kahlo and the second is Frank Lloyd Wright. The Wounded Deer is one of my favorite paintings of Ms. Kahlo's and Fallingwater is probably my favorite building of Mr. Wright's. I'd like to go there one day. The closest I've been is to watch the beautifully detailed animation by Eterea Studio.

What other artists would be fun to interpret in poster form?