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Gowanus Boat 3-23-2014NYC boat, maybe in the Gowanus.  Watercolor on 140 1/2 sheet Arches coldpress
NYC claims to have some of the best drinking water in all the land, which might be true—until it reaches the city. Then it’s stored in tanks that haven’t been inspected or cleaned in years. Here are some of the yucky bits that appeared in the NYTimes article:
    • There are thick layers of muddy sediment in the tanks
    • Even some that are routinely maintained contain E. coli (a microbe carried in the feces of mammals and birds)
    • Dr. Stephen C. Edberg, a public-health microbiologist at Yale University who invented the now-standard test for bacterial contamination in drinking water, was so alarmed by the results that he immediately alerted the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.
    • Building owners are not required to submit proof to the city that cleanings and inspections have been conducted, as they do for elevator and boiler inspections. Until recently, they did not have to provide evidence of the inspections to their tenants.
    • Another potential concern is the use of an epoxy called Sea Goin’ Poxy Putty, which is not approved for use in drinking water, a violation of the city’s health code.
    • One day he found a pigeon bone in the strainer of a resident’s kitchen faucet.
    • Tank cleaning companies have an inventory of stories about finding dead birds, mice and animal droppings. One cleaner discovered a homeless person living in the attic space between a tank cover and the roof.

I still drink the tap water.

And apropos of nothing, the water itself is not Kosher because of copepods found in the water!  I’m not kosher or even Jewish, but now I always check my water to see if I can see those little critters floating around.  (So far I haven’t seen a thing.)  Still, with all of this info, you can’t beat our bagels.  And why?  Because they are boiled in NYC water.  Maybe the copepods give them some extra flavor?

Speaking of water, the Gowanus is still a filthy, polluted superfund site.  I remember when I first moved into my current apartment I would hear fog horns late at night.  Those were from the boats passing through the canal.  I have no idea what this boat would be used for on the canal, but I thought it looked cool and colorful.  I used artistic license and made the water look cleaner than it actually is.  I was going to put a little water tower far in the background in the upper left corner.  I still may.  But for now it’s done.

Utah – Bryce, Scenic Byway in Moab, and Arches on 1/2 sheet of 140# Arches coldpress.  Each image is approx 5 x 8 inches with approx. an inch and 1/2 space in between.

I’m back in Utah! Well, not physically, I’m still in NYC, but blog-post wise I’m back in Utah.  I feel like I’ve been astral traveling:  Utah, NYC Urban Sketching, Utah again and then a quick stop in Florida (see the decoupage under glass plate below.)   If only I could get some frequent flyer miles for all these trips.

The left panel is Bryce Canyon.  The middle is on a scenic byway in Moab. Which was a beautiful road.  The Colorado river was a muddy rust color, with purple-ish mountains on the other side and trees that clearly had been burned in a recent fire and then these bizarre little clumps of neon green grass growing.  The final panel is from Arches National Park (I think).

This is the first time I did a triptych.  I felt it worked well with the imagery I chose to paint.  I have so many images in my head (that often fight with the voices) and I’m torn between my cityscapes and this amazing Utah landscape.

I’m also working on some coasters and plates for the upcoming Putnam Arts Council Holiday Craft Sale.  I have to work like a busy bee the next few weeks to get some inventory ready for the sale. I just finshed this 7″ plate of Florida Oranges.

Decoupage under glass – 7 inch glass plate with Florida Oranges image, with metallic and acrylic paint.

I have a number of these 7″ plates which I plan to sell along with some vases and other glass items.  I will go into busy bee mode to make a bunch of coasters for the holiday sale.   I can’t believe I’m already thinking about the holidays.  So, if you don’t hear from me, check to make sure I haven’t collapsed under a mound of glass coasters, Elmer’s glue and metallic paint.

People have asked me how I create the decoupaged glass pieces I post on the blog.   I will show you how step by step.  Remember, there are many ways to do this; this is just one example.  The process can be very time consuming and I have cursed a blue streak while working on these pieces.

Let’s do this!

Select an image and make a few laser or toner copies (not inkjet).   Glass should be clear.  It can be a vase, bowl, plate or anything else you find that you might want to use.  Cut out your Xeroxed image.  The more “filigree”  the more spots where the metallic and paint can show through.  For this demonstration, I chose a clear round plate and a dragon image that was on a blue field.  I cut around the dragon and got rid of all the blue background.

Check to see how you want to place your image on the glass.  This is how I chose to layout my dragon.  

Make sure your glass is clean!

Get two paper bowls.  Put some Elmer’s Glue (white glue) in one bowl with a few drops of water and mix that up.  Put clean water in the other bowl.  Have a small sponge handy.

Next smear the glue all over the back of the glass.  Gently place the image on the glass.   If it’s very large you may have to glue it in sections.  Remember it’s the front of the image to the back of the glass.

Put some glue on your fingertips and GENTLY press on the image to get the bubbles out and to carefully re-position some areas if needed.   This is the part where I start to curse.  I have ruined many a piece at this stage.

After you’ve gently pressed most of the bubbles out, take a wet sponge and GENTLY PAT the glue off the glass. DO NOT RUB.  I have rubbed many an image right off.  You know what happens?  It goes right in the sink because it’s Ruined!  Ruined! I say!  Don’t let this happen to you.  Dip the sponge in the clean water bowl, rinse and PAT the glue off.   Do it again and again until most of the glue is off.   Be very careful not to tear the paper since it is pretty wet and it will very easily tear.   I’ve torn COUNTLESS images at this stage, but they can be fixed.  That’s why you made multiple copies.  More on that later.

From the front your image will first look like this.  Amazingly the glue in front of the paper will dry clear.

After you’ve gotten most of the glue off, let it dry.  Go back later and clean some more glue off.  You can use a Q-tip to get into the small spaces or even an X-acto knife to scrape away some of the glue.

Once your image is clean and dry, it should look like this.

Bored yet?  Have a smoke.  Have a drink.  Listen to music.  I am humming “the Girl from Ipanema.”   I have no idea why.

OK, break over.  Next steps:  Metallic paint, background painting and sealing.

Back? Ready to work?  Let’s go.  This is the “finishing” section.  Soon your piece will be ready for the coming out party at the decoupage debutante ball.

Once you’re satisfied with your gluing and subsequent cleaning of the glass, the next step is to select some metallic paints to sponge onto your piece to give it a little pizzazz.   Of course there is pizzazz and then there’s PIZZAZZ.  I am often stopped by my teacher after I’ve covered the whole back of a piece of glass with metallic paint.  She gently tells me it should look classy like fine art, not loud and garish.  (Did she just meet me?)  Her motto is Less is More. My motto is If Less is More, More must be Fabulous.   I chose gold for this project.

Put some of the metallic paint on a paper plate, take a sea sponge, dip the sponge into the metallic paint and then dab the sponge over the paper plate until the paint is almost dry.   At this point you are ready to enhance and elevate your glued paper and glass to the next level of awesomeness.  Gently press the sponge on the back of the glued image so that only a bit of metallic is showing…almost as if the image is glowing. Try different color metallics.   I often use silver, three different kinds of gold, chocolate and sometimes red. Not all at the same time.

Let the metallic paint dry.  If you think it needs more bling, go for it.  If you think you overdid it, scratch some off with your fingernail.

Next, select a background color for your piece.  In the studio we have a giant box filled with the free paint chips you get at the hardware store.   We try them out until we find a color we like and then match it by mixing the color using a variety of basic acrylic colors.  Another option is to decide on a color…let’s say red…and then pick out all of your red paints, paint a small swatch of each on a piece of paper and let dry.  Once the paper is dry, hold it behind the glass and see which shade of red works for you.

Paint the back of the glass until there are no streaks and the background is a solid color.  If you are using craft paint you may need four coats of paint.  Thick bodied acrylics should only require two coats.

Let dry.  Enjoy a cosmo and some fine dark chocolate.  I prefer the Lindt extra dark in the black wrappers, but this was all that was available.

I often put a final coat (or two) of metallic paint on the back. Finish with polyurethane or varnish.  Clean the edges and whatever paint and glue on the glass with a straight edge razor.   You may clean the front of the plate with glass cleaner.  Don’t soak or put it in the dishwasher.

Ta Da!

Congratulations, you have completed your first project.  You now absolutely detest this and never want to do it again…or…you will become consumed with looking for glass in different sizes and styles and images to copy and paste.

Some general info:

1.  This is only one technique.  You may know of different ways to achieve the same or similar results.  If you do please comment and share your knowledge.

2.  This is not an exact science.  I have ruined more pieces in either the gluing or cleaning of the glue than I want to remember.  Once I dropped a piece that was practically finished.  Boy was I broken hearted when it shattered.

3.  There are fixes for some mistakes.  (But not if you drop your glass and it shatters.)   If you’ve horribly disfigured a section of your image but everything else looks good, wait for the whole thing to dry and then carefully cut the offending section off and glue a new section on.  This is why it’s a good idea to make multiple copies of your images.

4.  If you don’t have another image to use to make a fix, and a piece of your paper has torn slightly, sometimes a colored pencil or marker on the back of the paper may cover the tear enough for it not to show.

5. If you see a bubble after the paper has dried, gently poke a small hole or make a small slit with your xacto knife and try to get some more glue in there.  Or get it a little wet and press down hard on the paper.  Don’t rub.

6.  Use one of your own original paintings!   Make some copies of your painting, cut it out and go to town.


Thank you for your time and patience reading the longest blog post ever.  Good luck.  Let me know how you do.

Rectangular decoupaged glass plate – 4.5″ x 6.5″ with a bit of a bevel in the middle 

I have never been an optimist.  I like to smile and laugh, but when it comes down to it, I am a realist.  The Husband on the other hand is quite the optimist, which is unusual, considering his profession.  He is happy when he wakes up.  I am filled with dread.  (I’m working on that.)   Here is a conversation we just had this morning.

ME:   OMG,  it’s so hot today and I’m so tired and I don’t think I’m going to last all day at work.

THE HUSBAND:  As least you weren’t one of the four people shot in my area last night.

Really,  how can I respond to that?  He makes me laugh.  And smile.     And he’s always got some sort of comment or smart ass answer for me when I veer towards the darkness.    Yay the Husband!

Today I have one more decoupaged plate to show you while I’m in the midst of some paintings.    Hope you like it.

In an effort to stave off senility, I have decided to learn Spanish.   I took Spanish in high school (along with one year of Latin) and I also took some Spanish in college.  Sadly, nothing stuck other than knowing how to ask where the bathroom is.  I recently started listening to Pimlseur on my iPod.   I can now be seen on the subway semi-silently mouthing Spanish phrases. But here’s the problem.  The conversaciones are ridiculous.  It’s either a perverted sounding man trying to pick up la señorita Gómez or Maria asking Juan if he has any money. WTF?

May I suggest to Pimsleur that if they had more interesting  conversaciones I would be far more able to aprender español.  

Maria:   Hello Juan, do you have any pesos.   Hola Juan, ¿Tiene usted algunos pesos?

Juan:   No, I don’t have any pesos.  ¡No tengo un peso!

Maria:  Do you have any dollars?  ¿Tiene algún dólares?

Juan:  No I don’t have any dollars?   No, no tengo ningún dólares.

Maria:  Adiós

Seriously?     Now if the conversacion when more like this:

Maria (at the methadone clinica):  Juan,  do you have any pesos?  I really need a fix.  Juan, ¿tiene usted alguna de pesos? Realmente necesito un poco de heroína.

Juan:   Maria, I told you a million times, I’m not giving you any more pesos.   You better get clean or else.  María, te lo dije un millón de veces,  No te voy a dar un peso más!. …Será mejor que te limpies, si no…

Maria:  Don’t make me cut you!    No me haga que le corte!

See, NOW I can’t wait to habla me some español.    

Charlie, my old dog walking buddy who is now living up in Maine, once taught Spanish to prison guards at the Coxsackie prison correctional facility. I swear. I bet some of those phrases would be interesting to learn.   Oh well,  I can ask where the Hotel Columbus is like nobody’s business.   ¿Dónde está el Hotel Colón?

The above plate is an 8 inch square clear class plate with all of the decoupage done from underneath.  These are fun to do but very time consuming.

I made a ton of coasters and plates for the Arts Council Holiday Craft Fair.  Now Christmas is over and just before we get to 2012, I have another birthday.   Once again, I am not 60!

December 28.  As my friend Chris once told me in his North Carolina butter melting accent “Doesn’t it just suck to have to share the spotlight with the baby Jesus?”

Yes, Chris.  Yes it does.

Famous people with a December 28th birthday:

Denzel Washington, Dame Maggie Smith, Oprah’s friend Gayle King (no relation) and Woodrow Wilson, to name a few.  But I don’t know any of them. So happy birthday to all my friends and family who share this day with me:

My nephew Kevin

The Husband’s partner Sean

Mark, the owner of the bar around the corner

Bob,  my friend who lives two blocks away and whom I never see

My sister’s neighbor Gayle Aprile

My friend Aram’s sister

Taryn’s dog Domino

If I knew what I was doing I could tell you the sizes of the plates.  The coasters below, which came out huge in the pictures, are just regular sized coasters.  Oh well,  Maybe now that I’m another year older I’ll figure this blogging thing out.

Happy and healthy 2012 to all.

Who knows where the time goes?    I have no new paintings to post and only this decoupage under glass plate to show so I am posting the contents of an email that my brother who does not read my blog (“mbwdnrmb”) sent to me.  I was so amused by it I thought I would share it.  Mbwdnrmb won’t know I posted it.  He doesn’t read my blog.  So there!

As I worked on my computer this morning, Dillon came up to me with a toy helicopter.  While spinning its tail rotor he asked me, “Daddy, what’s this for”?    I gave him the basic technical response stating that the main rotor provides lift and allows the helicopter to move up and down and forward and back where the tail rotor counter-acts the rotational force of the main rotor and stops the body of the helicopter from spinning.

The next words out of my mouth were these:
“And you know, if you’re ever in a gun battle with a helicopter, you can win by shooting its tail rotor off.
Any fan of 80’s action movies is well aware that even though the chopper may have men armed with fully automatic assault rifles, your years of training in Special Forces and the measly 9mm hand gun you have provides you with the skill and agility to avoid being shot and the ability to shoot the tail rotor off.”

With that, Dillon marched into the kitchen and said,

“Mommy…..did you know…. that you can win a gun battle with a helicopter if you shoot its tail rotor off”???

It didn’t go over big.

Charlie, Rogue Administrator! Collage on foamboard

Red, I’ve been told, is my color.

It’s also the color of bureaucracy.  I know this, not only because I live it at work every day, but because of letters I read this weekend as my siblings and I were cleaning out mom’s papers & files that we still have in boxes.

Letter number one was from the Social Security Administration.  It was written in the 70’s to my father who had recently been hit by a truck and seriously injured. The letter requested an update on his condition, specifically if there were any changes that caused him to no longer be disabled…or blind.

The second letter was from my mom to Macy’s (and later to a news “action” reporter). My mother wrote requesting a refund in the amount of $84. 26 for drapes that had been returned.   Mom was unable to get any satisfaction and was so frustrated that she contacted the local news action reporter.   This action reporter managed to get my mom’s money back from Macy’s. And then Macy’s sent her a SECOND check for the same amount.  She was so honest that she tried to return the 2nd check and couldn’t.   Enter the news action reporter again to help her out.

Why do some things get mired in a morass of red tape?

Recently my friend and dog walking partner Charlie was told by someone where he works that he was a “ROGUE ADMINISTRATOR”.    He was told this by a person who is completely incompetent.  Charlie, who had enough of her, finally told her that she had to comply. She accused him of being a rogue administrator.  Charlie, who will NEVER let anything go until it’s been righted, requested that I do this collage of Charlie: Rogue Administrator!  He found some beer called Rogue which had some great labels and box art.  I used those, pictures of Charlie, excel spreadsheets, acrylic paint, bottle caps, clear packing tape and various other graphics to make the collage above. Charlie was thrilled with it and will place it on an easel in his office for all to see.

Perhaps the only thing the collage needs is some red tape affixed to it somewhere. Ok, it’s literal.  But this is what the customer ordered and that’s what I delivered.  He got no red tape from me.

Just back from a fantastic trip to Croatia (or Hrvatska as the Croatians call it).  It was the Husband’s big birthday trip. Our first stop was Istria, a peninsula that juts out into the Adriatic.  That is where my father’s family comes from.   We got to see the town my grandmother came from which was fun.  The town is called Šušnjevica and I spoke about it and painted it here and here.   There will be many more paintings to come, but in the meantime here is a similar plate as the plates I made to give to my cousin’s cousins (got that?) who live in Pula and have, among other things, a vineyard.

Some observations from the trip:

Croatians are a tall people.

Germans are also a tall people and apparently like to take all their clothes off in the sun.

Europeans in general cannot stand in line if their life depended on it.  There may be a semblance of a line say, to get on a catamaran to take one to Hvar, but as soon as that catamaran docks, it’s a free-for-all.  This made the Husband nuts!  (Members of the UK are excluded from this observation. They excel at queuing!)

It amazes me that so many people from other countries can speak multiple languages.  I am always jealous of this.  One time in particular, there was a Croatian who spoke to my cousin’s cousin, who then turned and translated to my cousin in Italian who then turned and translated it into English for us.  Sigh.  I wish I was multi-lingual.  I also wish I was taller, younger, richer and weighed less.

The first native word the Husband learns is the word for beer.  (In Croatian it’s Pivo.)

“Trst” is the Croatian word for the Italian town of Trieste.  Krk is a Croatian island in the Adriatic.  Many of the Croatian words have impossibly long consonant combinations that make it difficult for non-speakers to even try to pronounce.  There are also many accented letters.  The Husband asked a native why they have little or few vowels in many of their words.  She thought about this for a moment, shrugged and said nonchalantly replied “we don’t need them”.    So there you go.

An amazing amount of Europeans still smoke.  I am astounded by that.

The myth of the skinny European has been debunked.  Many are as fat as Americans.

The Adriatic Sea is crystal clear and many beautiful shades of blue.

Croatians love their Crocs (which they call crocsies).

More on Croatia (Istria and the Dalmation Coast) with (hopefully) some paintings in later posts.

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