Table Top Inspirations

I love the table top still life. It’s what I am envisioning when I create cardboard pieces, and when I paint. The table top, whether real or imaginary, functions not only as a frame for the objects but as a point in time. We glimpse a moment which may have just happened, may be happening, or is about to happen.

I often mention this in the titles, such as ” Travel Talk Before Dinner” below.

Travel Talk

At times I just mention the objects and let the viewer fill in the blanks, as in “Still Life With Three Objects” below. It’s a complete story for me, but it invites the viewer to create their own behind the scene story. Over the years as my work has evolved, this concept of the tabletop as a universe has also continued to evolve.

Banana and Eggplant with 3 colors copy_3 copy

Although “Chocolate Cupcakes On A Shelf”  may appear to be a wall piece, I actually created it as a hanging tabletop.

 

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During the relocation of the past year and a half, I have been ‘sketching’ through an evolution that is less visually descriptive. Although continuing to use objects that relate in a space, I am adding objects that on the surface appear to be unrelated.
There are common threads that are always present. These building blocks, such as color, texture, line, and volume are the visual expression of creative work.  But beyond that,  my current direction is a less visually descriptive way of seeing.  Where is it all going? I remain opened to that answer.

What Inspires?

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My thoughts on relocating?  I had no idea it would be such a long search for a new abode. But here I am in my new city, still looking for the house I will call home. Until I do find ‘the’ house, I live in a great neighborhood filled with inspiration. And I walk daily.

I see unexpected art.

I can be transported to the woods simply by passing a neighbor’s water feature.

I can find myself suddenly standing in a magical place, under a Japanese maple leaning precariously over the sidewalk.

And I can meet a new friend along the way.

This richness of experience is a great ingredient to add to the mix that is the daily life of an artist.

It’s all about perspective. I do have a very small temporary studio space, but beyond this space I have so much more. So I walk everyday, and return to fill my sketchbooks with projects waiting to be executed when my permanent studio space appears.

 

The Post Consumer Palette

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If you follow this blog, then you have read about my temporary diminutive workspace, and how I have embraced a new and efficient way of working.  It does have it’s challenges however.

One day, while sitting at my ‘easel slash worktable’, juggling brushes, an acrylics palette, a small painting propped on an equally small tabletop easel, paint rags, water jugs for rinsing my brushes, and little scraps of cardboard used for mixing trays, I had a vision.  I could construct stack-able  mixing palettes out of post consumer, or soon to be recycled, products.

I will be the first to admit the space dictated the idea. In my former studio, I would just grab another of my many lidded plastic palettes for mixing. But not only are these currently residing in a storage unit,  there would be limited table space to accommodate them.

However in my kitchen pantry,  I did have 3 post consumer aluminum pie plates made from recycled aluminum. I bought these simply because they take up less room in my current apartment storage space than my glass pie plates. They stack very tightly together and are reusable.

The recipe for the palette:

1 post consumer aluminum pie plate
1 post consumer paper plate
post consumer paper towels
And I add little parchment scraps that I should throw away after cutting out pieces of parchment for baking in round forms. But I never do.  Rather, I use these square scraps as surfaces for assembling small cardboard sculpture because glue does not stick to them, and I can have several components setting up simultaneously.  As an alternative to parchment, you could substitute  a wax paper like Marcal which is post consumer, or Yupo, a synthetic paper for artists.

How to assemble:

Line the pie plate with the paper plate and folded paper towels. Spray this with water. This acts like a sponge and holds moisture to keep the mixing surface moist and hence your acrylics.

 

Lay the parchment directly on top of this, and pat it down to fit. I then lay a wet paper towel around the edge and squeeze any other paint I might use for color mixing directly onto this towel (see last photo). This way I don’t have to do all mixing on one palette, which can create a liquid muddy mix with acrylics.

 

For stacking, I stack with a stiff moistened paper in between, and place them in a used plastic grocery bag until the next day.

If you are space challenged and  have limited  table space for acrylic mixing palettes, and you don’t want to use just throw away paper plates, try these inexpensive palettes.

Nuts About Doughnuts

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Sweet, fried dough? Made to conveniently fit in you hand?  There are so many reasons to love this treat. And we in the US are not the only lovers of this decadent, delicious deep fried dough. From Zeppole in Southern Italy to Paczki in Poland, it’s really an international favorite.

Just when I think I will never paint another doughnut, one comes along that  I can’t seem to resist. It’s not only that very memorable flavor, doughnuts also possess a powerful and compelling art allure.  They are commonly “round”, one of the building block shapes of drawing.  You can hold them, like a brush or pencil.  Plus they can be any color represented on the color wheel, and are often multi-colored.  After all, from my perspective, sprinkles and coconut are just small pieces of color.

 

Come to think of it, I wonder why I even considered I may never paint another doughnut…..I’m sure there will be many more doughnuts on my canvas, panel or paper in the future. I’ll just have to have this conversation with myself all over again.

 

 

Petite Baking

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I am practicing small. Small is my new temporary approach to all activities, including kitchen happenings. Just as I am fitting into my “petite making” space, so I am adjusting to my new petite baking space.

My temporary kitchen is 10 feet long by 2 feet deep. The appliances, storage, and work surface form a complete unit on one wall.  So when I finally decide to take on the challenge of baking, I begin small with ‘melt-a-ways’. These little  butter cookies not only melt in your mouth as the name promises, but they are easy to make and require few ingredients while offering great reward, which is they are delicious.

I finished mine with icing tinted pink, and used a sprinkle of sanding sugar for a little sparkle. But these little buttery bites are a blank canvas for your choice of icing and color, and perfect for the small space kitchen.

 

Melt-A-Ways

Heat oven to 325º.

Cookie:

3/4 cup butter, softened (if using unsalted add 3/4 tsp salt)
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/2 cup cornstarch
1 cup unbleached flour

 

In a large bowl, combine butter and powdered sugar. Blend thoroughly without over mixing.

Stir in cornstarch and flour, without over mixing. If dough is soft, chill for 30 minutes for easier handling.

Shape dough into 3/4″ balls.

Place 2 inches apart on ungreased and unlined cookie sheet.

Bake 10-15  minutes or until very lightly browned around edges.

Cool completely.

Icing:

3/4 cup powdered sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/2 tablespoon butter, softened (if using unsalted, add a pinch of salt to taste)
1  1/2 tablespoons milk
food coloring -optional

 

In a small bowl combine all icing ingredients except food coloring. If needed add a few more drops of milk to make a desired consistency.

After combined, tint as desired with food coloring.

Dip the tops of the cookies in the icing, or spoon over the cookie.

Allow icing to set before storing.

These freeze well, although they rarely last that long……

Petite Making

 

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I am temporarily settled into a very diminutive studio space. It’s one wall, in a small room.  Although this may seem a challenge, I have embraced my work wall and all it’s demands. I refer to it as my “petite making space”. It’s has a poetic feel, and calls for me to be very organized, and to thoughtfully decide what  tools and materials I need for any given project. Gone are the days when cardboard was strewn all over the floor or leaning against the walls, and a painting was in progress at all times on the easel.  Now the easel is the work table,

 

and the scaled back cardboard collection is carefully housed and neatly stacked in plastic tubs against a wall.

 

The larger cardboard larder is in a heated dry storage, which I visit weekly for picking and choosing. Now I either paint, or work on cardboard, but I must chose which to do when.

 

It’s either one or the other.  This all seems to work, as long as both are relatively small scale. So for now, it really is ‘petite making’.

Finding Your Feet

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Hasn’t it been a long hiatus? It feels as if I have been floating above ground and there have been no feet with which to land.

After finishing a 15 year restoration on the bungalow where Art On The Menu lived, cooked and created, the time had come to get the very last project off the list. I should add this was the very biggest project: the kitchen. Then the long term goals of finishing the restoration, selling the house, and moving could be completed. And the destination? A Northwest city with a thriving art and food culture.

 

 

So here we are. Art On The Menu is currently in an apartment while looking for a house to call home. The apartment is compact, but efficient, as is the current studio space. The ‘studio’ is on one 10ft wall, with rotating bins of cardboard lining the second wall. The office is on the opposite wall, and a shelf of miscellaneous studio equipment on the last wall of this small room. It’s working as long as the work itself is of a certain modest size! But I will save that for another post.

 

Now that the studio is organized I will begin to complete my promised commissions, and thank all my dear clients that graciously wanted me to wait on completing their commissions while the move was in progress. And, I can begin some new work I have been thinking about for months.

And landing on your feet? I can see mine again.

 

A Studio Walk Through

The time has come to completely empty the studio space after postponing a much needed makeover for far too long. I will patch, sand, and paint the neglected walls and woodwork that have served me so well for years. Although I will be doing the painting myself, I admit to being very uncomfortable giving up the studio even for what I hope is only a week. Gone will be the space I need to physically work out an idea, or problem solve a construction solution I have been incubating. But in a week, I will have a new space to celebrate a new start.

As a salve for my anxiety, I  have decided to do a visual walk through. It will remind me that, although all the ins and outs, pieces and bits, in progress and nearing completion work is sitting in boxes everywhere, I will soon be back in that space in which I am most comfortable.

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Since there is never a good time to begin this, I am just diving in!

Summer In Winter

When I want a diversion from the kale and roasted veggie salads of winter, I start rummaging in my freezer.  I love the brilliance that Autumn gives us. It’s that last bright burst of color before the low gray sky and cold days of December through March. Yet I find Autumn bittersweet, because I know it offers the last local tomatoes of the year.

It’s my tradition to come home from the Farmers Market  at the end of Autumn carrying flats brimming with over ripe, slightly bruised, and imperfect end of season plum and heirloom tomatoes. I then dedicate a day to extracting that concentrated late summer flavor by roasting them. Although an all day commitment, it is so worth the hours! The roasted tomatoes then get parceled into portions and popped into the freezer.

 

It makes me so happy to be able to enjoy that bright, sweet, intense and slightly acidic flavor during the winter months.  I use my roasted tomatoes in every way possible: pasta sauces; on bruschetta as pictured below with my pesto, which I also make during basil season and freeze, and in soups.

Or I simply just plate this bright, delicious freezer find and finish with a drizzle of olive oil, a crumble of a good salty cheese like ricotta salata, and a sprinkle of fresh frozen parsley or the dried herbs we all turn to during winter.

 

On days like this, its no wonder roasting tomatoes for the long winter days ahead is a custom I always look forward to.

Late Summer Roasted Tomatoes

This recipe makes about 3 pounds.

Make as many or as few as you like and adjust the recipe accordingly.  I generally make 25 pounds of tomatoes and increase the other ingredients to taste.

On a baking sheet toss together:

3 lbs tomatoes washed, halved or quartered depending on the size of the tomatoes.
2 tblsp olive oil
2 cloves minced garlic
1-2 tsps balsamic vinegar

Bake at 425 for 15 min or until tomatoes are brown and starting to caramelize.

Remove skins after baking. They slip right off.

 

For The Love Of Holiday Cookies

What is it about Holiday baking?

It’s the indefinable scent of sugar, butter and spices wafting from the oven and falling like a soft cloud of sweetness, covering every nook and cranny of your home. And, it’s the childhood memory of anticipating that first buttery bite as the object of fondness finds its way through the creative cycle of mixing, baking and decorating.

Growing up I always found the intersection of art and food so thrilling this time of year. And that magic of transforming ingredients into beautiful, edible works of art continues to inform my baking. Every year I pour over hundreds of cookie recipes, carefully choosing the year’s selection by balancing flavors, shapes and colors to create a final canvas of artfully assembled sweet delicacies, always hoping to reflect the magic of Season.

My theme  this year was fruit and nuts, and I have included a delicious cranberry cookie recipe below. The dried cranberries and coconut make this a welcomed gift anytime of year.

Wishing You All A Happy, Joyous Holiday Season.

 

Coconut Cranberry Cookies

Makes 6 doz cookies

Preheat oven to 350℉

1 1/2 cups butter room temp (3/4 lb)
2 cups sugar
1 tablespoon grated orange peel
2 teaspoons vanilla

In a large bowl with a mixer on medium speed, beat butter, sugar, orange peel, and vanilla until smooth.

 

3 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 tsp salt

In a medium bowl, mix flour, baking powder, and salt.

 

Add flour mixture to butter mixture, stir to mix by hand, then beat on low speed until dough comes together in a smooth mass, about 5 minutes. (The mixture will look dry until it comes together as a dough. If it is too crumbly to form into balls, the dough needs to be mixed longer).

 

1 1/2 cup dried cranberries
1 1/2 cup sweetened flaked dried coconut

Mix in cranberries and coconut.

 

Shape dough into 1 inch balls and place about 2″ apart on  lightly sprayed baking sheet (do not use parchment).

Bake at 350℉ until cookie edges begin to brown, 8-11 minutes. Shorter baking time will yield chewier cookie.

If baking  2 sheets at once in one oven, switch their positions halfway through the baking.

Cool on sheets for 5 minutes, then transfer to cooling racks.

Dust with powdered sugar (optional).

From Sunset Magazine published sometime during the last decade!

 

 

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