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Its That Darn Brand Thing Again! On Defining My Brand

Introduction: My Own Brand, or Modus Operandi

Lately I’ve been thinking about “brand” as it relates to my own artistic style or modus operandi (MO).  Why do I avoid defining my brand?  Choices; there comes a time when we can’t do it all.  I have come to realize that if I don’t focus on a brand or MO, I risk confusion, among other things.

To explain my thinking, I’d like to share a story then explain my situation.  Finally, I’ll invite your feedback on the cohesiveness of my own “brand” as it applies to three of my paintings.

Artist Brand: MsKitty, Toy Pony and Blue Bunny Blues

Musician John Mellencamp, And His Brand

This June, my husband Robert and I attended a John Mellencamp concert. We had a wonderful time; Mr. Mellencamp and his band put on a great show. He had the energy and sound that we like about John Mellencamp.

You see, we were not sure we were going to like the show.

Brand: Voice and Energy

I think a little background is in order here. My husband and I grew to appreciate and enjoy John Mellencamp’s music in the 80s and 90’s. So, when we saw that he was coming to one of our favorite venues, we immediately purchased tickets.   Then, a few weeks later, he released his latest music album. But,  this did not sound like the John Mellencamp we knew! It seemed that his voice was different and the energy was not there. What happened; were we going to like the show?

AHA!  A Thought Pops In My Head!

It was while thinking about this concert that I had an “AHA” type moment!  This is all about “branding”, and it applies to me and my art.  Just as Mr. Mellencamp’s voice and energy are his brand, I need to define my brand and focus!

On Brand: Still Life with Egg Cup and Rabbit Netsuke

The Kewl Payntur Case

Here’s a “for instance” scenario. Let’s call the artist “Kewl Payntur” just for fun.  Kewl Payntur might be me or any artist you might know.  Over time, our buddy Kewl builds an audience of people who like his or her particular art.  There is something about Kewl’s work that speaks to the audience.  Mr/Ms Payntur can surprise, challenge and engage the audience as as he/she evolves, as long as the “certain something” is still there.  The “certain something” instills a type of cohesiveness about the body of Kewl Payntur’s work and that it helps the audience identify and define the artist’s work.


So, what is the lesson being taught or tormented over? Deciding on a “brand” or style.

Two Styles! (Or maybe three?)

I wrestle with what I define ought to define as my “brand”.  Usually, I think of my brand as being a stylized, abstracted, designed approach to the subject.  In other words, I am not trying to paint from life and I purposely want you to know it.  My intention is to stylize, distort and have fun with my images.

Problem Defined.

OK, fine, so what’s the problem?  Well, I like to paint from life too. From time to time, I focus my efforts on creating paintings and drawings that achieves a degree of accuracy and likeness.

To rephrase the problem, what does having two different styles do to my brand as an artist?  Do I confuse my audience?  And, what does this dichotomy have do to achieving a degree of mastery in either approach?

Its About You: Confusing or Cohesive

So, this really is about you, the viewer.  Would you like to help?  I have posted three of my paintings and all of them include a rabbit, just because I like rabbits.

What do you think, is my “brand” identifiable?  Even if you can’t articulate it, do all three look like they were done by the same artist?  Or, do you find the collection confusing?

On Brand: Garden Bunny

Post Script:  John Mellencamp’s Voice Endures

By the way, to me, Mr. Mellencamp’s brand includes his voice and energy.  His voice has matured, but it still has the special something that I recognize as the “John Mellencamp” voice.  So, it was a good concert.

Post Script, Again: Travels

In my last posting, I spoke of traveling adventures.  Robert and I did go on the road to New Mexico and we are back home.  We had a good trip and I have started working on my blog posting.  I hope to have something to share with you soon!  Thanks!






The post Its That Darn Brand Thing Again! On Defining My Brand appeared first on Margaret Stermer-Cox.

About An Artist’s Vision Plus New Three Minute Egg Paintings

Artist Vision:  How To See.

Greetings!  I’d like to share with you two of my latests pieces in my “Three Minute Egg Series”.  Furthermore, I’d like to talk about how I come up with my artistic vision for a series, using my current paintings as an example.

The Good Question.

A friend and collector of mine asked me a tough question a couple of months ago.  She had seen my earlier paintings and blog posting about my three minute egg series.  The question was how to see and understand my paintings.  I immediately thought “Oh, I need to do an artist’s statement for this series”.

Artist Vision: Three Minute Egg Project

Time Out!

OOPS!  Please stop!  Before you read any more, I’d like to ask you to please just look at the paintings.  Without analyzing, allow yourself to have a first impression; a first reaction.  It doesn’t matter if you like them or not, just allow yourself to respond in your own personal manner.

Vision: About Relationships.

Now then, back to what the series is about; the artist’s vision.

When I start thinking about an artists statement or vision, I start remembering relationships and stories about the subject.  For example, I did not enjoy eating eggs when I am a child, though three minute eggs were the least offensive.  That being said, I was always intrigued by the egg cups.  The particular eggs cups we had were ones that my parents purchased when they were living in Spain.   To me, they were exotic, interesting and special.

Still Life and Project Set Up.

Now, lets consider the set up of the three minute egg still life.  I knew I was going to be going from realistic to abstract when I started this project.  You might remember that the first seven completed were part of a workshop I attended with artist Gabriel Lipper.  (Paintings 8 and 9 were done after the completion of class).

So, the set up.  I looked on line at still life set ups from some of the Master’s of still life, like Chardin.  Then, I considered what I had laying around in the kitchen.  Time is a theme I had been wanting the explore so the kitchen timer was selected for the still life.  Eggs shells are one of my favorite subjects because I feel the need to study how light falls on the curved shapes, so they were in.  Timer plus eggs suggests three minute egg in my mind.  To complete the set up, I added a spoon and napkin.

Design: Like A Puzzle.

To understand what you see in front of you, it might be good to realize that I like to design my abstractions.  Thinking of a tapestry or a puzzle, I am concerned with how the pieces fit together.  I select and create a scheme to be the backbone structure.  Then, I arrange my shapes, searching for something that captures my imagination.  I play close attention to the light and dark pattern I create because it helps direct the viewer around the painting.

Still Life Objects: Like Family and Friends.

So, what does it mean?  Think about your family and friends.  When you’re taking a group picture, how do you arrange yourselves?  If you’re all getting along and happy, you might stand close to each other and be fairly equal in rank.  But, maybe someone is having a birthday or something extra special.  Perhaps they stand a little bit higher or forward from everyone else.  Then, there is the shy person who tries to hide behind friends.  One must not forget the class clown who does things like stands on their heads or makes a silly face.

Well, organizing a still life is like arranging friends.  And when I work in a series, I arrange and re-arrange my buddies, or subject matter.  I paint them different colors; change sizes; change layouts, and generally experiment.  The more I work, the more ideas come into my mind.  I’m also learning how color, shape, size, line, direction, texture, that is to say the elements of design, work together to create mood.

Artist Vision:  Evolves with the Series.

Lets think back to the beginning: what am I saying?  Right now, I would say that I am exploring a still life motif that is linked to my memories of childhood and the three minute egg breakfast.

In time, the series may start to take on a different meaning to me.

Artist Vision: Three Minute Egg V9

What Do You See?

Back to you.  I asked you early on to just look at the paintings.  Do you remember the first things that came to mind?  Did you immediately see the eggs, timer, spoon and napkin?  Or was it just a jumble?  Now that you’ve read my account of how I developed this painting, look at the painting again.  How do the paintings feel to you now?  Do you see more?  Does the subject speak to you?  How about the paint?

More Later This Summer and Fall.

These are paintings eight and nine in the series. The plan is to create more later this summer and fall.  I would like to invite you to see the earlier paintings in the blog post “Deconstructing a Realistic Painting Toward Abstraction”.

Hopefully, I have given you a way in so you may see and enjoy my paintings.  Please do come back and see how the next paintings develop.

Travels Around The West.

I will be taking a break from studio painting as my husband and I travel around the West.  I hope to share drawings and paintings from our travels over the next few weeks!  In the meantime I do hope you are well.

Warm regards,



The post About An Artist’s Vision Plus New Three Minute Egg Paintings appeared first on Margaret Stermer-Cox.

Tangents – What Are They and Why Care?

Off On A Tangent.

Tangents – what are they and so what?

Tangents - just me thinking

Purpose.  My intention in writing this article is to explore and perhaps shed some light on how the word “tangent(s)” is used in drawing, illustrating, painting and photography.  I would like to share with you how this topic came up in conversation.  Then, I’ll talk about the definition of tangent as it applies to artwork.

To illustrate the issue, I will include some examples of tangents in my own work and suggest some possible remedies. Finally, I will list some references and links for further study.

Summary.  Tangents come into play when designing two dimensional artwork such as drawings and paintings.  They are created when two objects, such as a line or shape, touch but do not overlap.  Because they can be visually awkward or ambiguous, tangents tend to draw the viewers attention.  By learning how to identify tangents, the artist can either avoid them altogether, or use them to advantage.

Tangents As A Topic Of Conversation.

Banquet Discussion. The topic of “tangents” came up over dinner while I was attending the Watercolor Society of Oregon’s Spring Convention. I can’t remember who brought up the topic but the gist of the story was that a fellow artist missed out on the top prize of a juried competition because of a tangent in her painting.

What? My little brain cells clicked into alert mode. But, what if the tangent was supposed to be there? And, what is a tangent?

I Know or I Think I Know.  I thought I knew what a tangent was and so did my table mate. However, she described a tangent that wasn’t anything like what I thought a tangent was. Could there be more than one tangent, perhaps two tangents, at least? We discussed the problem for a while and, failing to resolve the issue, went on to discuss other matters.

Gray Matter Spinning.  Well, you might imagine my little brain cells would not let the matter rest. What was the definition and who was right? Did I know what I was talking about?

Ignorance Is Not Bliss.  In a way, no; I did not have a clear idea of what I was talking about when it came to tangents.  Too many vagaries, from not being able to see the painting, to not knowing the definition of tangent as it applies to art.  Time for researching definitions and looking for examples.


In geometry, a tangent is a line that touches a curved surface but does not intersect it.

Lets put this another way: tangents are two things, (lines or shapes) that are touching but not overlapping.  They are pretty much the same in artwork as they are in geometry.

Why Do We Care?  When it comes to looking at realistic images, we seem to like a visual order to things.  And, in the case of tangents, we like to know which shape or line is in front and which one is in back.  We like our spatial arrangement to be established and recognizable.

When the spatial arrangement is not clear, we have visual ambiguity; space collapses and the image looks flat.

The Fix?  Creating space by either shifting the line or shape or “pushing back” one of the elements by using aerial perspective (softening edges, muting tone, or moving color toward blue).  I will elaborate about spatial relationships and fixes below.

Examples of Tangents
Note, the bottom two examples are supposed to be of a simplified shape of a person (head, neck shoulders) and a shape of a tree. Just to clarify; thanks!


A Bit More Discussion And Elaboration.

Issue For Realism.  As I understand it, where this “touching but not overlapping” becomes a problem is in composing representational two dimensional art pieces.  That is to say, if I want to paint a realistic picture, tangents are something to be aware of and concerned about.   Because, you see, the tangents imply that the two shapes or lines are on the same plane.

Space!  Put another way, its all about spatial relationships. The issue with two dimensional works of art is that we are trying to depict a three dimensional world on the picture plane.  If the two objects are on the same plane in life, then the tangent may not be an issue.  But, what if they’re not on the same plane; what if one apple is deeper in shape than the other?  If they’re touching, but not overlapping, it creates an ambiguity.  The illusion of three dimensional space collapses and the image looks flat (as mentioned earlier).


Creative Intent.  So, what if I like to collapse the illusion of three dimensional space?  Well, then, that’s me and part of creative intent.  And, when I create then collapse space, the result is not particularly realistic; its expressive, stylized or stylized.

A Word Of Caution.  I would suggest being clear in your design that your intention is something other than traditional realism.  Why?  We are still concerned with communicating to our viewer and we want to invite the viewer into our world; include them in on the joke, so to speak.  And, back to tangents, they can confuse your viewer.

Back From My Tangent!  Sometimes writing about issues we face while drawing or painting feels like waving in the air; its hard to articulate and communicate what I mean.  Naturally, this is where examples come in handy!

Example One:  Man With Hat.

It didn’t take me long to find some examples.  I just had to look at my “works in progress” and recent painting.  So, lets take a look at some examples from my “Man with the Hat” Series.

Yes, I have some “tangent” issues.  Consider my first example.  I had an idea to add a tree behind my “Man with the Hat”, insert a few leaves and title it “Last Leaves of Autumn”.  Seriously, it was my intention to have one leaf practically touch the face of my gentleman with a hat.

Oh, just to explain, I composed this design BEFORE the WSO convention, the discussion and research on tangents.

Still, I noticed something was awkward.  When I transferred the design to the painting, I added some space between the leaf and the shape.

Tangent, Example 1

Sidebar:  Watch Adding New Things At The End!

Trouble! Which brings me to my next insight.  I get into trouble when I add things to compositions AFTER being finished.  Its an “upsetting the apple cart” type situation.  When something new is added to a picture, its like adding a new subject at the end of the story; its jarring.  Then, you have to start “fixing” the composition.  It might have been better to start a new drawing altogether.

Multiple Tangents!  And, that’s why this next variation on the “Man With The Hat” has at least three tangents that have to be dealt with.  This is a “work in progress”, so I have room yet to adjust before I complete the painting.

Tangent Example Two:  Man With Hat and Dog.

Here goes example two.  First I decided to extend the tree branches behind the man.  Second, I had an idea to add a dog.  I’d seen a man with a dog at a bus stop and was inspired.

Nice ideas, but the composition was already fairly well developed so now I have tangent problems to fix.

More tangents

Isn’t composing fun?  Its all about problem solving!


I found some interesting sites on the web that have more articles on tangents.  Cartoonists who rely on line work have a particular problem with tangents.

Empty Easel: Avoiding Tangents:  9 Visual Blunders Every Artist Should Watch Out For.

Schweizer Comics:  The Schweizer Guide To Spotting Tangents.

Monkey Lunch:  Tangent Slide Show.

Control  Avoid Visual Tangents, (video).


Remember back near the beginning of this article and the dinner conversation I talked about?  Well, my friend and I were both correct.  Tangents crop up in pictures in many different ways.  However, once you understand what they are, you can identify them and use them to serve your own pictorial purposes.  Isn’t that wonderful?

I hope you have enjoyed this article on tangents as they apply to two dimensional artworks.  My intention was to shed some light on the subject, provide some useful information and share examples.  If you were like me and were not certain about the usage of tangents, now you know a bit more!

Please enjoy the next wonderful piece of art you come by, and, maybe, see if you can find a tangent or not!








The post Tangents – What Are They and Why Care? appeared first on Margaret Stermer-Cox.

Its About Egg – Broken And Otherwise

Potato Salad Friday – With Egg

Hi and Good Friday To You!

I was making a potato salad this morning, with hard-boiled egg, and was thinking about the paintings I’ve been doing lately with eggs and egg cups. What is so special about eggs? I don’t really like eating just plain old eggs, though I do add them to food, such as potato salad and cake batter (yum!).

Broken Egg

Eggs On The Brain – Just Thinking

Do you have a “thing” about eggs? Or, better yet, have you ever thought about it?

Well, yes, I’ve thought about eggs a bit.

Breakfast With Mom:  Eggs

To explain, when I was growing up, eggs were a regular part of our breakfast. Three or four times a week Mom would serve us eggs and I didn’t like them.   But, I didn’t say a word because when breakfast was ready, it was eaten without complaint. I do come from a family of six kids and Mom didn’t have room for picky eaters.

Mom would poach, scramble, fry or three-minute soft boiled eggs. Three-minute cooking was among my preferred method for eating because then I could dunk my toast in the eggs. Remember soft, white “Wonder” bread? That type of bread was excellent for dunking toast.

Egg Cups

The other thing I particularly liked about three minute eggs was the cup it was served in. Mom and Dad purchased wooden egg cups when they were living in Spain. The cups were simple but they had a nice shape.  And, they were from Spain!

So, every time I draw or paint my egg shells and egg cups, I pay homage, just a little, to Mom and her three-minute eggs.

Oh, this egg cup is not one of my Mom’s Spanish ones.  I purchased it at one of the local grocery stores.  Still, I like it.

About the Painting

“Broken Egg” is an acrylic painting done on heavy weight watercolor paper. Its size is 6”(h) x 6.5”(w). The painting is available for purchase for the price of $175 (unframed) plus shipping and handling. Should you like to collect the painting, please contact me.


The post Its About Egg – Broken And Otherwise appeared first on Margaret Stermer-Cox.

Figure Demo, WSO Convention (Part Two)

The Demo:  Three Artists, Three Approaches, One Figure

Having introduced the Watercolor Society of Oregon’s (WSO) Spring Convention in my previous post, I’d like to talk about the “Three Artists, Three Approaches, One Figure” watercolor demonstration (demo). Let me say that it was quite a privelege to be asked to participate.  I had the pleasure of sharing the stage with two fine artists from Oregon:  Deborah Marble and Chris Stubbs.

Demo In Progress

First I would like to give you an introduction to the demo concept plus some of the wonderful people who contributed to our success. Then, I would like to present some “lessons learned” about doing a demo.  Finally, I will share with you a brief video clip.  Hopefully by the end, you will be able to get an idea of the set up, the fun, and what a special event it this “Three Artists, Three Approaches, One Figure” was!


Mary Burgess, “Presenter Liaison”, Starts It All.

For this convention Mary Burgess was the “Presenter Liaison”.  That is to say that she was responsible for coordinating the break out sessions and the mini workshop committee.  It was Mary who asked me to participate in one of the art demonstrations.  As you might imagine, it didn’t take me but two seconds to say “YES!”.  Thank you Mary!

Demo: Reference Photo Man With Hat

The Figure Demo Concept.

So, the idea behind the demonstration was to have three artists each do a watercolor painting using the same model or figure. In this way, we would be able to show three different approaches to figure painting.  Sounds simple doesn’t it?  I am grateful that Mary contacted us early because there was much in the way of coordination that had to be done.  But, it did come together and we were ready.

Chris Stubbs & Deborah Marble:  Working With Professionals.

Another thing I was grateful for was the professionalism of my fellow artists.  Both Chris Stubbs and Deborah Marble are experienced artists.  Plus, they have given several demonstrations  before.  Chris’s signature style includes lovely, lush skin tones.  Deborah’s particular skills include being fast and focused enough to be a court sketch artist.

For my part, I wanted to make sure I was on my “A” game.

Decisions, Decisions!

Two big decisions we three had to come up with were (1) do we use photo reference or have a model?  And, (2) what photo or model?  We ended up deciding on using a photo because that would give us time to become familiar with the model and prepare a demo pieces in stages, (see above).

WSO Three Figure Demo: Deborah Marble At Work

Del Moore and the Technical Support Team.

Well, let me assure you that having three artists on stage at the same time is not an easy accomplishment. I was so impressed and pleased with the support we received from WSO’s convention committee. As you might imagine, equipment was an issue. The committee’s technical team, headed by Del Moore, put together a set up where we had three cameras, projectors and screens. It was amazing! The audience was able to see each of us at work at the same time.

You might want to notice the set up in the photo at the top of the page and in the video (at the end).  Can you see that we each have a black “frame” on top of the table?  This frame had a light on each side to illuminate our work space plus it had a camera overhead.  The camera fed to projectors set up between us.  The entire set up was effective and un-obstrusive.  As a matter of fact, I thought the black of the work space was particularly nice!

Oh, the speed of this team in setting up and tearing down our demo equipment was impressive.  There wasn’t much time since our assigned room was in use before and after.  Del and his crew worked like seasoned roadies; my hat’s off (or a paint brush salute!).

Nancy Cheeseman, Professional Moderator.

The other thing that Mary did for us was to add a moderator for our session. Fellow WSO artist and professional moderator Nancy Cheeseman stepped up and did the job. And, what a superb job Nancy did indeed! I cannot imagine our session being such a success with out a moderator. She helped keep the audience engaged in what we were doing by asking each of us, in turn, a series of questions. Nancy also took questions from the audience. In the end, I think that the moderator helped us tell our art-making stories.

A Word About The Audience.

What demo could be complete without an audience?  And, we had a wonderful, supportive audience of artists from around the west.  While most attending were members of the Watercolor Society of Oregon, we did have several artists from the Western Federation of Watercolor Societies also present. Thank you all; you made it fun and extra special!

ChrisStubbs Man With Hat

For the Fun of Painting – The Demo!

So, with all this wonderful, professional support staff, what was left for us artists to do? Why, paint and have fun of course! It was a case of showing up with your work and getting our paint on…or going, or flowing!  😉

I think there are a few things that I would like to remember as a sort of “lesson learned” for the next time I do an art demonstration.

Demo: Three Artists

Lessons Learned.

Things that went well:

  • Detail Version. Artist Chris Stubbs brought multiple unfinished paintings, or “works in progress”. One in particular was an enlargement of the figure’s face. Chris is known for painting beautiful, colorful skin tones. By enlarging the face, it was easier for the audience to see how she achieves such wonderful glowing skin.
  • Special Equipment. Fellow artist Deborah Marble showed some improvised tools she uses for line work, for example.  It was not something you would expect to see and I think it added an extra dimension to her work process.  And, her tools were just so cool to see!
  • Different Speeds. The three of us had different styles and processes. Deborah, for example, can paint quickly (note her figure in the photo above).  Chris, though not as fast as Deborah, had almost finished her painting in the allotted 90 minutes.   On the other hand, I build my paintings slowly over time, applying thin layers of paint.  Mine was completed about four weeks after the fact.  We all had something interesting and different to offer our audience.
  • Multiple Versions of Demo Piece.  On a personal note, much like Chris, I brought four versions of my interpretation of the figure. Each version was in a different stage of completion. I found it helpful to have several stages to work on, (see examples above).

Demo: Stermer-Cox Version Man With Hat

Things to consider for next time.

  • Timing!  Because time is limited, I think it would be good to have a definite plan on how long to work on each stage.  And, time it during the demo.  This idea entered my head during the demonstration.  I had the feeling that I’d lingered too long on one stage.  Having to think fast, I quickly ended my painting mid wash in order to move on to the next phase.
  • Where’s The Watch?  I lost track of time altogether!  My small wrist watch is not so good for a quick glance.  Plus, the room was dark and I couldn’t see the wall clock.  Therefore, I suppose it might be a good idea for me to get a bigger watch, clock or timer.  The point I’m making to myself is:  you have to be able to see and keep track of time.
  • Task Per Stage.  For next time, I’d like each “stage” version of the painting to have a particular problem or task to demonstrate.  I had this idea in my head beforehand.  However, I ought to have defined the stages formally, which means on paper.  I am thinking that this would help me explain my process.  Therefore, note to self:  if its on paper, its a plan!

The Video

To sum up my experience, I’d like to say I had a great time.  Maybe I’m just a bit of a clown at heart, because I thoroughly enjoyed the experience of showing how I work.  To that end, please enjoy a short video clip of me as I introduce my process.

Now that I’ve introduced the key players, shared lessons learned, and shown a brief video of yours truly in action, I hope you can see what a special, fun event this was.

What’s Next?

I’m still working on the paintings and having a great time with the man with the hat.  The question now is, how creative can I be?

Thank you!



The post Figure Demo, WSO Convention (Part Two) appeared first on Margaret Stermer-Cox.

WSO Spring Convention (Part One)


Hi!  This article is about the Watercolor Society of Oregon’s Spring Convention as a precursor to an article about a watercolor figure demonstration.

Just to clarify, I wanted to talk to you about the lessons I learned while participating in a demo for the Watercolor Society of Oregon’s (WSO) Spring Convention.  However, as I started writing I found myself talking as much about the convention as I did about the demo.  Maybe I needed context for the demo, or maybe the larger effort was a story I wanted to talk about too.

Convention: Paintings At Museum

A Blog Posting In Two Parts.

As I was writing about the convention and found myself approaching 1000 words, I realized I still wasn’t finished.  Hmmm, perhaps it was time to make this a two part blog post.  And, this will be Part One: About the WSO Convention.  Then, my next posting will be “Part Two: About the Three Artists, Three Approaches, One Figure Demo”, which was a demonstration I participated in at the Convention.

Part One:  The Big Convention.

So, let’s start with the big picture first:  The Watercolor Society of Oregon’s Spring Convention 2017.

And, may I say that it was a big “to do” in the world of Oregon watercolor.

To elaborate, the reason for the bigger than usual convention was that the WSO hosted the Western Federation of Watercolor Societies’ (WFWS) Annual Exhibition. This was the first time that the Western Federation came to Oregon so, naturally, WSO’s committee worked hard to put on a first class, extra special convention. They selected a theme of “Pour It On”. Most appropriate, I think, because the committee did “pour it on” by putting together an excellent convention.

Convention: Ruth & Margaret At the Museum

About WSO Conventions.

To explain, the Watercolor Society of Oregon holds an exhibition together with a convention approximately every six months. That is to say, there are meetings, art demonstrations, vendors, and mini-workshops in addition to the awards ceremony for the artists at the banquet. It is quite an event. Add to the usual amount of work an additional exhibition of the paintings selected for the WFWS 42d juried show. You might imagine that there are lots of people involved.

Huge Congrats!

I pause here for a special “congratulations” to all who worked on the committee to bring Western Federation here. Oregon artists Ruth Armitage and Margaret Godfrey led the effort. This was a multi year project that involved lots of behind the scene work. It was a gift to all the artists who came to the convention or exhibition.

Three Shows; One Museum.

So, let’s consider this: three shows hung side by side in one museum!  I’m referring to the paintings in the WFWS juried exhibition; paintings in the WSO exhibition; and a special showing of the Juror Jeannie McGuire’s work.  The results?  Stunning!

The paintings are on display at the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art on the University of Oregon campus in Eugene, OR. This exceptional show will be at the museum through June 19th, 2017. If you would like more information about location, hours and admission, please see their website.

Convention Volunteers

Wait!  There’s More!  Mini Demos and Workshops.

In addition to the exhibitions, the WSO convention includes mini demonstrations and workshops. In my opinion, these provide benefits to member attendees in two major ways: those who attend may learn something new or different; those who teach or demonstrate gain experience.

I went to some of the sessions and was particularly impressed by the amount of preparation done by the presenters. Remembering that we’re all volunteers, I was doubly impressed! Imagine, so much work just for the love of creating art, watercolor painting and our fellow artists!

A Word About The Vendors

Several vendors were present during the convention to talk about their products and generously share samples.  I would like to extend a special “THANK YOU” to Mr. Steve Gallisdorfer from ColArt Americas, Inc.  Mr. Gallisdorfer and ColArt represent many fine art brands, including d’Arches artists watercolor paper.  I received a block of 140lb watercolor paper (3.9″ x 9.8″), just perfect for outdoor painting!

I was pleased to meet Northwest Watercolor Society artist Ron Stocke who was doing a demo for Oregon owned M. Graham & Co paints.  Fun!

Thank you to all the vendors who gave so generously to WSO.

Convention, sampling of paintings at the museum


Sharing Ideas.

I’d like to share with you some ideas I gathered from two of the presentations I attended.

  • Create a PowerPoint–style slide presentation of your paintings. From a presentation Jeannie McGuire, Juror.
    • The slide show helps you get a feel for where you are as an artist and where you’ve been
    • Can help you explain your process, vision, or passion to others.
    • You can do a “retrospective” of your work, or maybe create a slide show of your latest series. Either way, it’s like a portfolio in PowerPoint.
  • Select and review your paintings with the design principles in mind. From a presentation by Oregon artist Linda Rothchild-Ollis.
    • You might create a small slide show of some of your work.
    • Select some of the design principles to focus your evaluation.
    • Look at your own slide show and evaluate how you’re using the design principles.

A Special “Thanks”!

I would like to acknowledge and thank Lynda Hoffman-Snodgrass and Ruth Armitage for sharing photos.  Please note that several of the photos are courtesy of the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art, via Ms. Armitage.  Thank you!


So, now I’ve set the stage and given you a bit of context about the WSO Spring Convention and WFWS 42nd Show.  In my next posting, I’ll continue in Part 2 with a discussion about the demo I participated in along with Deborah Marble and Chris Stubbs.

Stay Tuned For Part Two.

WSO Convention Spring 2017 Three Artists




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Deconstructing A Realistic Painting Toward Abstraction

Lessons Learned From Gabriel Mark Lipper’s Deconstructing Class.

For most of February and March of this year, I have participated in art instructor Gabriel Mark Lipper’s “Deconstructing a Painting” Class. Hmmm, I don’t recall if he actually had a title for the course. In any case, seems to me that we called it the deconstructing class or deconstruction for short.

I thought it would be a good idea to capture what we did and what lessons I learned while the class is fresh in my mind.  I would like to share with you the work I did to illustrate the process.

My other hope is that perhaps this article will inspire those of you who are painters to try this on your own. That is, if you haven’t done so already.

Deconstructing: Three Minute Egg Series


Deconstructing as defined in Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary:  “to take apart or examine in order to reveal the basis of composition…”

I interpret deconstructing or deconstruction to mean to simplify, re-arrange and generally have a good time seeing what I can do with paint.

What We Did.

The idea was to go from realism toward abstraction in a series of paintings.

Deconstruct: Three Minute Egg Project

To explain, we were all tasked with coming up with a reference still life or photo to use as a starting point. If using a reference photo, it could be anything from a still life to a figure or landscape, for instance. The idea was that the source material be from life.  I ended up using a photo of a still life I set up on my breadboard.

Week One.

The assignment for the first week was to paint a realistic painting of our subject as accurately as possible. The idea behind the accuracy is that you are investigating and studying your subject through the painting. This was our start point.

Deconstructing: Three Minute Egg 3&4

Week Two.

For the second week, we put away your initial reference material and used only the first painting for reference.   We created a second painting of the same subject.

Week Three and Subsequent Weeks:

Same as week two, only using the previous week’s painting as your reference material.


  • Generally speaking, we kept our canvas or paper the same size and orientation (vertical or horizontal) throughout the class.
  • Honor among artists, we were encouraged not to consult previous paintings to find solutions to problems.
  • It was OK to change color or value patterns.
  • Simplification and abstracting encouraged.
  • Pushing your boundaries and abilities was the idea; take risks!

Deconstructing: V4&5 Three Min Egg

Let the Deconstructing Magic Begin.

As Gabriel pointed out, by the third painting, one starts to want to explore possibilities. I felt the urge to dive in though it was a bit scary. You might say “ well, its just a painting”, and that’s a great way to think about it. The trouble is that you are stepping out of your comfort zone. The magic of deconstruction starts to happen when you realize the sooner you take the plunge the better.

Being excited to jump in, I came to class with an idea and went for it. I will admit that I had been looking at one of my books on Cubism and it had sparked an idea. I added a rectangle around a couple of the items in my still life and that changed everything.

The other thing I did was not dither or dwell on having a fully conceived drawing before I started. Wow! Was that ever different! I gave myself time to quickly outline my subject then started working with a paintbrush. For week five, Gabriel even brought out palette and putty knives. The difference in paint application added another dimension, and risk!

Lessons Learned:

  • It is exciting to push your own limits and comfort zone in painting.  In this case, taking risk is good!
  • I found it interesting and completely engaging having to react to each mark on the paper.
  • Imposing limits, like a limited palette or value range, ends up being empowering. Or, maybe it was just easier because it freed me to consider the entire design elements.
  • This is a great way to approach learning about abstraction.
  • I think each of us has learned something about what we like and who we are as artists.
  • Deconstructing a painting is somewhat different from the theme and variation that I have done before.  The sequence of using your first painting as your source material for your second; second for third and so on helps reinforce the idea of getting to understand the construction of the subject through simplification and abstraction.

Deconstructing: v6&7


I was thinking that it is indeed easier to leap into the unknown when one is in a classroom environment. Gabriel was excellent in coaching us through the process. He encouraged us to try things. He guided us through design problems and considerations. Gabriel was as enthused about our work as we were.

Oddly enough, I think one of the interesting things that Gabriel did was not do a demo of deconstructing a painting during our class. The reason I thought it was a good idea (after the first week) was that we were forced to use our own resources to figure out how to deconstruct.

You see, during the first couple of weeks, I wanted to see what Gabriel was doing so I could get an idea about where to go. In other words, I wanted to see his solutions to the deconstruction problem. But, instead, I had to use my own mental resources. I had to struggle until I dove in to the work and tried things.

Just to clarify, Gabriel did a lot of instruction, especially one-on-one. He also inspired us to stretch ourselves and then work outside of our comfort zone.

Oh, and our fellow classmates.  Their work was equally as inspiring and insightful.  We  each solved our deconstruction problems in different ways.

Deconstructing: The Three Minute Egg Project


Now What?

Do this process on my own. I would imagine that this is a great process to use from time to time. The work encourages examining your own process, esthetic and limitations. Plus, its great fun to plunge in and do things you thought you might like to try and never got around to doing.

My other thought was that going through this kind of exercise periodically might keep an artist from getting stale. Also, you might find some of your own little quirks. For example, I tend to create shapes that are the same size, sort of like soldiers in a formation. By questioning the habit, I may better employ it when it’s useful. Otherwise, variety in shape sizes is something I might want to watch purposely.


Yes, I would wholeheartedly recommend to fellow artists to either take Gabriel’s deconstructing class should he do it again. His expertise, especially his knowledge of what makes a good painting, is invaluable.

For those of us who don’t live in southern Oregon, perhaps you might want to go through a deconstruction exercise on your own.   Or, maybe you have a friend that will do it along side of you so you can encourage each other.  I suggest that the lessons learned are well worth the time invested!

Gabriel Lipper & Dog Max Deconstructing

Update: Post Deconstructing Class.

I am continuing to work on my own. I have seen the benefits and find it exciting.  You might notice “Three Minute Egg v8”, its a work in progress.  I’m deconstructing on my own.

Invitation To Share.

I would love to hear from you; please feel free to leave a comment.  For those of you who have done a deconstruction series, I’d enjoy seeing a sample of your work!  Matter of fact, I’d love seeing a sample of your work regardless!

Thank you!


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Doing Color Studies

The Value of Color Studies.

Greetings!  I am going to give you a short introduction about why I do color studies, then outline how I devised my own color study project.  Finally, I’ll share with you some of the lessons I learned by doing the studies.

And, I might add, it is the “doing” that is critical!  Some lessons are best learned by doing them for ourselves.

Color Studies
Example of color study set one.

Story Time.

A couple of months ago, I was chatting with a fellow local watercolor artist. She was taking beginning watercolor classes but thought she was ready for more advanced study. In particular, she would like to attend a class on color.

Oh, yes, you might imagine visions of being an instructor danced through my head. I could do this! And then I started imagining how I might teach a class on color. The question “what was useful for me, and how did I learn color” popped into my head.

Why Do Color Studies?  To Learn.

I’m not certain that we ever stop learning about color. But, what has helped me gain knowledge about the properties of color is doing color studies. And, periodically I do lots of them.

Oh, and, they are fun.  The studies are a great exercise for improving skills.  Or, if going through a period of the dreaded “artist block”, try doing some color studies to get the proverbial creative juices flowing.

Color Studies
Example of color study set two.

How I Did My First Big Color Project.

I selected a drawing I had already done. This particular drawing was of a cat and I figured I’d like to do a finished painting or two (or twenty) using this particular cat pose. So I created a color study project for myself.


Here were the rules I used. And, I do believe setting “rules” helps the project stay focused and move along.  Besides, since you set your own rules, they are subject to your goals.

  • Set One: Use the same drawing as the starting point*. Vary the color: select color combinations like complimentary, monochrome, or triads that might be fun. See what happens, see how expression changes with color variation.
  • Set Two: I varied line and shape quality in the design plus varied color. For example, red might appear more expressive if the lines were straight, geometric and angular. However, red might appear sweeter, more feminine if the line quality was curved, organic, and rounded.
  • Do lots!
  • Note:  By the way, if you want to do color studies, you can also make up a simple, pleasing composition of geometric shapes. You don’t need a fancy drawing, just something to get the creative juices flowing.

And, thus, the “kittykitty” series was born.

Color Studies
Color studies: Example of Set Two

What I Discovered.

In other words, these are things I read about in art books but needed to see, feel and learn by trying on my own.

No Bad Color.

I think it is difficult to get a “bad” color combination, though some color schemes might appear more dissonant or discordant; they clash. Sometimes, clashing colors are just what’s needed!

Other color schemes appear more harmonious; they go together.


Color combinations can and do influence the mood of the painting. To clarify, think of blue and you might think of blue skies, or feeling blue, or true blue. How about red: red heart, seeing red, red skies. I think you get the picture: a color within the context of a painting can enhance mood.


Color brightness, or intensity, matters. Bright next to muted or grayed color is beautiful. Gray can be beautiful and colorful.

Color Studies


Color value matters too. I orchestrate color values for “carrying power” – that is you can see the painting from across the room.

  1. To illustrate, yellows read light and, with watercolor, have a hard time with carrying power. It is hard to see yellow from far away without a strong dark nearby. But, when you do, yellow sings!
  2. Reds are tricky because they tend to be in the mid range straight out of the tube. Mixed with its compliment, reds can make a beautiful, strong dark.
  3. Blues tend to be in the darker value range when used full strength. But, it is not always the case. A cobalt blue, for example, never gets as dark as a comparable ultramarine blue. Cobalt blue tends to stay in the mid range


Trying to compose a painting with every color on your palette can be a challenge. One painting almost made me dizzy!  Having one color dominant helps clarify and strengthen the painting.


Limiting color combinations, such as working with color combinations, makes the painting life ever so much “easier”; OK, relatively easier. You can use small touches of other colors to spice up the painting. But, simplifying color does help.

Next?  How About You?

OK, I could probably go on for the next while on lessons learned. Let’s do this instead. I have shared several of my color studies on this page.  Now, if you are interested, how about you?  I would like to encourage you to do some for yourself and feel free to share.

OR, those of you who have been painting a long time and have done color studies, feel free to share your own comments and maybe an image!

Post Script.

No, I haven’t started teaching a watercolor class on color.  The idea still dances around my head.  And, that is why I’m doing this post, to start getting my own “creative juices” flowing for teaching.

Color Studies
More of Set One










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Irish Breakfast Tea: Rogue Gallery & Art Center


I’m happy to say my painting Irish Breakfast Tea is currently on display at the Rogue Gallery & Art Center, Medford OR, for their Celtic Celebration.  This painting is one of four that I have showing at the gallery.  My other three paintings are from my Still Life With Toy Pony collection and I’ll share them with you below.

Irish Breakfast Tea

First, The Celtic Celebration.

Art Show.  I’d like to highlight that the Rogue Gallery’s special Celtic inspired art show went on display March 9th, and will run through March 18th.  This special show features works by local artists using a variety of media, from acrylic, collage, oil, gouache, mixed media, photography, and (my favorite) watercolor.

Celebration.  The art show is part of the Gallery’s Celtic Celebration which culminates in a special fun filled evening, including singing (!) on, you guessed it, St Patrick’s Day.  By the way, if you’re local, they are having a singing contest, so go for it!

Celebration Time.  This unique celebration takes place on March 17th from 6:30 to 8:30 pm.  For more information, and they do have more information, please see their website.  Lets see…art, music, food, friends, what could be better?

Business Hours.  The Rogue Gallery and Art Center is located at 40 S. Barlett St. in Medford, OR.  Their hours are as follows:

10am – 5pm, Tuesday – Friday
11am – 3pm, Saturday
5pm – 8pm, every third Friday

Thank You.  Here’s an extra special personal THANKS to the Rogue Gallery and Art Center.  They have selected the image of Irish Breakfast Tea to use for their publicity.  Its a thrill to see my painting used as the gallery’s post card!  Thanks!

Artists.  I’d like to share with you the list of participating local artists.  They are Jennifer Bagwell, Rachel Barrett, Lynette Elita, Christina Cannon, Ashley E. Clasby, Carol Cochran, Suzanne Etienne, Joyce Feigner, Cynthia Flowers, Kim Hearon, Mary Hoskins, Jennifer Ivey, Mary Ann Macey, Claudia Marchini, Anna May, Susan Murphey, Richard Newman, Jody Palzer, Terri Regotti, Patrick Ryan, Red Thompson, Greg Thweatt, Doug Wallace, Karen Wallace and yours truly.

On a personal note, I think we are fortunate to have such a wonderful gallery in our community.


I am thrilled to say that “Irish Breakfast Tea” won two awards:  People’s Choice and Staff Pick.  The Gallery selected my painting to announce the Celtic Celebration in the local newspaper.  I am so pleased!  Thank you!

Still Life With Toy Pony

Then, About Irish Breakfast Tea.

Impetus & Inspiration.  I think it is appropriate that the impetus for creating this painting happened to be the gallery’s “Celtic Celebration”.  Though, I must admit, intention was to show this last year…but life happened and its this year instead.  To explain, I had been toying with including symbols from different cultures in my artwork and the Celtic Celebration gave me the motivation to get my ideas down on paper.

The Tea Cup.  Regarding the image, the tea cup is one that my Mother gifted to me.  This happened to be one of my Father’s favorite cups, though he used if for coffee not tea.  It is green, white and gold.  Using shamrocks as decorative trim seemed natural and appropriate.  I remember in grade school wearing the green leaf, or class made versions, on St. Patrick’s day.  Since then, I’ve associated the shamrock with Ireland.

Still Life With Toy Pony

Celtic Knots.  Wanting to include more Celtic symbology, I added my favorite Celtic knots.  By doing a search on the internet, I learned how to draw a Celtic knot.  Perhaps out of curiosity, I wanted to know how to draw my own design rather than trace or stencil the knots.

Triple Spiral.  Adding a triple spiral, also known as a triskele, was natural; I love spirals.  The triple spiral alludes to our spiritual nature.  I liked the shape and found a nice place for it on the end of the tea bag.

The Title: Irish Breakfast Tea.  I’d like to share with you the inspiration for the title.  It was another gift from my Mom.  She once sent me a sample of loose leaf tea and I found the Irish Breakfast Tea to be particularly pleasing.  So, even though the title might seem obvious, it has special meaning to me.  Plus, I think it just sounds good!

Still Life With Toy Pony

Still Life With Toy Pony At The Rogue Gallery

I’d like to highlight that I have other watercolor paintings showing at the Rogue Gallery and Art Center.  You may see three versions of Still Life With Toy Pony in the member’s portion of the gallery through the end of April.

I recently talked memory drawing with examples from the Still Life With Toy Pony.  I’d like to refer you to this blog post to see more about Toy Pony.




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Memory Drawing: An Essay on a Form of Memory Drawing With Examples

Thinking About Memory Drawing.

I have been thinking lately about memory drawing. The topic was sparked by one of the books I’ve been reading about drawing by the director of The Arts Student’s League of New York City. The book is “The Visual Language of Drawing” and is by James L. McElhinney and several of the instructors at the League.

Memory Drawing: Still Life With Toy Pony Series

“The Natural Way To Draw”, Kimon Nicolaides.

At one point in the book, Mr. McElhinney mentions the 1930s instructor Kimon Nicolaides and his approach to teaching drawing.  As a point of reference, the book  “The Natural Way To Draw” is derived from the teaching notes of Mr. Nicolaides. James McElhinney lists some of the exercises that Nicolaides had student do and it includes  “memory drawings”.

Now then, my copy of “The Natural Way To Draw” is stuck away in storage. However, when I was starting out on my drawing and painting path, I read through Nicolaides book. At the time, I did not have access to a life drawing class and was struggling to find a way to start developing my artist’s skills. When I reached the memory drawing exercise I thought “Aha! This is something I can do anywhere, anytime!” And, so I did the exercises, or  at least my version of Nicolaides memory drawing. I would say that memory drawing lead to my eventual “Peggy” style drawing which is a blend of memory and imagination.

The first “Still Life with Toy Pony Drawing, March 2009.  I drew this version from life and imagination.


From time to time fellow artists have asked me how I come up with my designs, especially for series like “Still Life with Toy Pony”.  Oddly enough, that is a hard question to answer.  But, drawing from memory is a start toward explaining the process.  If such a question interests you, please read on.

Other times, people just like and enjoy to see the drawings and paintings.  In which case, the narrative about memory drawings may not be so relevant.  Instead, I hope you will find the works shown here interesting and enlightening.

What Is Memory Drawing?

So, what is memory drawing? Its a way of drawing without direct observation; that is to say you are not looking at a model while drawing.  So, this is what I learned and remembered from Kimon Nicolaides’ book.

Sidebar: Disclaimer!

Disclaimer time first, though! I ought to mention that this is how I interpreted the lesson.  If I read the book today, I might interpret it differently.

Memory Drawing Exercise.

In any case, here is the gist of the exercise: draw something you see during the day from memory; not from life. You might want to set aside say 20 minutes a day to do this type of drawing. Maybe you draw a car door handle, or a person opening the car door. Another idea might be to draw a person you meet on the street, in a coffee shop, or on a bench at a bus stop. And, the subject doesn’t have to be people. It might be a cat crossing the street; a horse in a field, or a plaster cast angel in your neighbor’s yard.  Or, it could be a still life arrangement you find or set up.

Memory Drawing, Still Life With Toy Pony Drawing 60
This is drawing number 60 of the Still Life with Toy Pony series. By this time, I was drawing exclusively from memory and imagination.

How I Did It.

Back to my personal experience and perspective. My routine has been to go out and do a jog most mornings. I have been doing this for years. After reading Kimon Nicolaides book, I thought I might pay attention to the people I pass while jogging. I would look at someone then try to remember an impression of the person.  Then, I would set aside 20 minutes after breakfast and get to work drawing the person I’d seen while jogging.

Results:  What I Learned.

As you might imagine, at first the figures were stiff. The label “not very good” would have been appropriate. But, what I learned was that I became better at the memory drawing over time, especially if I saw the same person doing the same action – say walking down a beach.

I would like to share what happens. Each time you see someone doing the same action, you take better mental notes. You see “what the legs do”, in other words the shape legs create while they are walking. Another day, you notice how the arms swing naturally while a person is walking. Next, you might notice the tilt of a head or how a jacket bunches up at the elbow. Each little observation becomes a mental note that helps you with your next memory drawing.

Oh, and, yes, the first memory drawings I did are stuck in storage along with my Nicolaides book.  But, the process took!  I still do this type of drawing when I start a series.

Drawn from Memory and Imagination
Variations on a Theme: Drawing #22

Life Drawing.

Now, for those of you who like to draw from life, remember this is an exercise. And, life drawing is a form of memory drawing. Consider this, drawing from life is “look, remember, draw, look, remember, draw” and repeat. Unless you are doing a blind contour drawing, it might be said that you are doing “memory” drawing pretty much anytime you draw from life. In this case, you are holding a bit of information in your memory for a short time rather than the time I took to do my 20 minute memory drawing.

Abstract Drawing.

Since I mentioned life drawing, I thought I’d talk about abstract drawing for a paragraph. Drawing from memory is one way to “abstract” the essence of the subject.  You simplify; you remember the main movement, gesture, color, or shape.  That something that you remember can become a point of departure for a stylized, abstracted design.  The memory of people, nature or things observed in life becomes the source of inspiration, improvisation and intuition.

How Memory Drawing Influenced My Artwork.

So, how did this memory drawing have an effect on my artwork? After awhile, I found that I saw interesting shapes while drawing. I gradually freed myself from trying to recreate my subject and started experimenting. Drawing became a type of dialogue between me, my memory, my drawing and my imagination. I can best describe the process as a “push and pull” type of drawing: pushing lines and shapes one way; then pulling them an opposite. I work this way until I gain traction and the drawing emerges on the paper.

Memory Drawing: Design 4, Still Life with Toy Pony

Variations on a Theme.

This type of “seeing, remembering, exploring” drawing is perfect for variations on a theme. That is to say, you start from what you see in life, then draw variations, allowing memories and imagination to influence your drawing. If you get stuck, you might go back to drawing from life.

For me, this was a great way to get started on developing my drawing skills. All I needed was a sketchbook, a pencil, a kneadable eraser and off I went. OH, yes, you may erase. I did because it helps to push and pull the drawing into shape! And, another rule I employed for myself, don’t give up until you have given the drawing a serious try!

“Still Life With Toy Pony” Series.

OK, nice, all these words.  But, how about results?  I have attached some of the drawings and paintings from my “Still Life with Toy Pony” series.  The series was started by a drawing from life.  As I started working variations, I worked from memory, then I transitioned to imagination.  Imagination, in this case, might be said to be a modified form of memory drawing too.  I incorporated what I remembered from the original still life plus all sorts of other ideas that popped into my head while drawing.

The “Still Life with Toy Pony” series marks a leap forward in my drawing, composition and painting skills.  I’ve worked on it periodically over a six year period.  And, who knows, I may yet re-visit the theme!

Still Life With Toy Pony Design 32: Memory Drawing

How About You?

Do you do a form of memory drawing?  What are your experiences?  Please feel free to share and add a comment.  Thanks!

Update, February 13, 2017.

I found more about drawing from memory on a website:  Studio Rousar.  Artist Darren Rousar has written a book titled “Memory Drawing”, plus he has several exercises and insights available for you.  His exercises are different from mine and, incidentally, I thought I try a few out myself.  Thanks!



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