Morning Song

Early Saturday morning before dawn, we started the morning with poetry, bird calls, and frost on our feet.


It was part of a sound installation sponsored by ideaXfactory designed and led by Gerard Nadeau of Drury University’s architecture department called Morning Song Evening Song. Starting Friday evening with a workshop led by Greater Ozarks Audubon members, we each put a wooden Audubon bird call on an orange ideaXfactory lanyard around our neck and headed up to Park Central Square.

There at sunset, we spread through the First Friday Art Walk crowd and started a slow symphony of bird calls noises, first a few, then many. Then more, then faded away.

The next morning we assembled at the ideaXfactory at 6 am, shared bagels and coffee and headed to the West Meadows future greenways park site.


In the wet grass, Kate read bird poetry, then we started the morning crescendo of bird calls and watched the sunrise over the Grant Street bridge. The morning experience was much different, and I think, much more profound than the evening.

After it was all over, Ed Filmer showed up to video, so we got to do it all again. And I had time to make another drawing.


For more photos, please visit to ideaXfactory’s Morning Song Evening Song post.






First Friday Art Walk drawings

This Friday I had planned on drawing a sound installation sponsored by the ideaXfactory (more on that later) but it turned out to be harder than I thought. So instead I drew some other interesting things that happened downtown on the First Friday Art Walk. There were a  lot of people eating green cake as they walked around Park Central Square…


Turns out Park Central Library was hosting an “Edible Books” event, and they had asked local cake shops to make Call of the Wild cakes. The biggest one was made like mountains covered with green pines trees. There was a whole row of ladies cutting and giving away slices of cake. I must say I was a bit relieved as I had originally thought people were eating parsley cake.


The library was so crowded, it was hard to draw because people trying to get free cake kept bumping into me. I went back outside and saw this young guy spinning fire.  The fire glowed nicely against the twilight sky, and so did the string lights hanging across Park Central East. There was a couple wearing hoodies sitting on the edge of the fountain. I would have stayed longer, but it was so cold outside that I couldn’t draw a non-shaky line.


Back at the ideaXfactory, there was a silent art auction going on organized by a lot of Drury University folks to raise money for Rare Breed. They had installed a beautiful folded paper installation on the ceiling for the upcoming Saturday night Drury Beaux Arts Ball, and the paper walls of the temporary gallery also glowed with changing colored light. A DJ wearing fingerless gloves played electronic music for the Friday night auction preview. In the glow of the “cloud” installation, it was a popular spot all evening long.


Over at Art & Letters, a collaborative show organized by Meganne had an opening. She has started about 20 ink on canvas and paper paintings, then asked other local painters to finish them.


 Cattywampus was playing in the corner in front of Christiano Bellotti’s painting.


 Ryan Dunn of Smokey Folk played a few songs with the band.


I really thought I knew this woman in front of a Tyler Estes and Meganne Rosen O’Neal painting. Turns out I know her sister! The best part about ending up at Arts & Letters was Russ and I had great luck at finding some funky retro clothes for the Beaux Arts Ball on Saturday.

More Sketching at Crystal Bridges


Finally! Beautiful weather for a whole weekend, so we rode and walked on trails both days at Crystal Bridges. A family from India was visiting, the father on one side of the stream telling his daughters across the water how to pose for a photo.


These were all about 5 to 10 minutes sketches with a brush pen, colored with watercolors later. I didn’t know Russ took a photo of me sketching until I saw this on Instagram!


Looking out a window to a Mark di Suvero sculpture — a little tricky to draw!


From inside the museum, an interesting view of the outdoor plaza through a cast polyester “Big Red Lens” by Frederick Eversley. The whole scene becomes a puzzle to draw, and probably doesn’t make much sense. I got confused myself and drew trees on the ceiling which I had to cover up later with cross-hatching.


Out on the plaza, there’s a funny orange-red Keith Haring sculpture. A museum staff person was passing out drawing boards, paper, pastels and pencils to invite the public to draw.


At first I saw more people looking at their phones. Then Russ got into the act, so I sat down too and drew some more.


Eventually I noticed a group of five girls, all with drawing boards. Some looked like they were seriously drawing.


How interesting the plaza bowl was so large, and yet with all that room to spread out, they sat squished together so tightly, their boards almost touching.


This guy sitting under a pavilion watching his kids was funny too. “You kids go run around the trails about five more times. And DON’T PICK THE FLOWERS!”

Reflections on public art on the 50th anniversay of MLK’s “I have a Dream”

MLK memorialToday is the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, and it’s caused me to reflect on how different artists have portrayed the man and his words.

Last summer we were lucky be able to visit the MLK memorial in Washington DC. It’s a massive public art installation (look at the tiny people in the lower right-hand corner of the photo) by Chinese sculptor sculptor Lei Yixin. The figure of King is moving out of a “mountain of stone” and is at the center of the wall of inscriptions of his quotes. So many wonderful quotes!

On the other side of the sculpture, another quote is currently being removed by the sculptor. Not because of something offensive, but because many people considered the quote was taken out of context. There have been times I’ve written and said words that I wished I hadn’t, but can you image trying to erase words written in stone?!

MLK memorial wall

This summer we visited the MLK memorial in the Yerba Buena Gardens across the street from the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. The gardens are a beautiful spot of nature and art in the middle of a busy city.

YerbaBuenaGardensUnfortunately the MLK memorial fountain, a 50′ high waterfall over Sierra granite and shimmering glass, was close for repairs.

They probably they were working like crazy to get ready for today, but you could still walk behind and see the civil rights photos and inscriptions behind where the water should be falling. Here’s what the waterfalls normally look like, and also a lot of other fantastic features inside the Gardens.

The fountains were designed by sculptor Houston Conwill, Poet Estella Majoza and Architect Joseph De Pace. In the sculptor’s words: The Memorial is “a sacred space … meant to be experienced as a cultural pilgrimage and a journey of transformation,” and poems are translated into the languages of San Francisco’s 13 international sister cities.

San Francisco MLK memorial

This summer, my husband and sculptor Russ RuBert has been working on his own tribute to King. A few dark nights, he has projected images and video of King on historic silos in downtown Springfield’s IDEA Commons near the ideaXfactory. These silos are 170-feet wide and massively tall, so you can imagine the impact of the images on this scale.

Russ RuBert - MLK projections on silo

Seen by only a few people in real life, he posted photographs of the projections on Facebook which inspired the organizers of today’s Unity March to invite Russ to help them project images and video on a large canvas installed in Park Central Square. This evening event will kick off a full year of a focus on civil rights for our city. It’s a step in the right direction, and I hope that it will also lead to commissions for more permanent public art here created by artists to tribute people, themes, and ideas as significant as other cities have done.

Although the “I Have a Dream” speech has been copyrighted and sold, the City of Springfield got permission from the King family to project the entire 15-minute speech. After I watch that tonight, I’ll probably have more to say on this topic!

You can see more images of the silo projections on the ideaXfactory website.

Russ RuBert - MLK projections on silo


American Visionary Art Museum


The American Visionary Art Museum is an wonderful place — three buildings of fantastic architecture dedicated to self-taught artists who follow their internal compass. The gift shop filled with art books and vintage toys and gimmicks was alone worth the trip around the Baltimore harbor on a rainy day.

Continue reading American Visionary Art Museum

Some more ways to help Japan

It’s been two weeks since the huge earthquake and tsunami hit Japan, and I haven’t written anything about it here. I must seem insensitive, lately only posting only idle-time drawings. But the truth is the amount of suffering and sorrow happening in the world right now has been overwhelming. It seems bigger than anything I know how to approach in writing or in art.

When I see all the images coming out of Japan — these are the most poignant I’ve seen —  I can’t help but remember when our studio flooded a few years ago. What we experienced was so nothing compared to what’s happening on the other side of the world right now.

I tend not to try to portray sorrow or pain in my art, because it only seems to make me spiral down. Somehow by looking for the small lights in dark days and recreating the world through drawings and poetry helps me to feel like like I’ve reversed that trend. That and trying to do something positive. In addition to sending money to international aid groups, here’s some different ways to help:

Comfort Quilts for Japan

Patchwork Quilt Tsushin is a well-known quilting magazine in Japan, and they have sent out a plea for comfort quilts. Comfort quilts are utilitarian quilts made for children, newborns, or adults that can help ease pain or discomfort in times of sickness or distress. Here is a blog post by Tanya Watanabe, a quilter living in Japan who has translated the message from the Patchwork Quilt Tsushin website.

She has the requirements for quilts and shipping instructions to Japan. If you are in the United States, she also has instructions for shipping by April 30 to Quilter’s Newsletter who is making a collection in Boulder, Colorado to ship in bulk to Japan, and the Quilter’s Newsletter call for Quilts for Japan are here. is also partnering with Mission of Love to send a shipment of quilts to Japan

And if you are in Europe, there is another collection point in France by Quilt Expo en Beaujolais.

Springfield Sister Cities’ Japan Relief Fund

We’ve been involved with Sister Cities for some 18+ years, helping with artist exchanges, festivals, and educational programs. One of our sister cities is Isesaki, Japan, and each time we’ve been to Japan, we’ve made a trip there to visit and stay with friends. We’ve also had many friends from Isesaki stay in our home here in Springfield, and last year we started the sister cities website which is coming in handy right now to publicize current fund-raisers.

Our sister city is near Tokyo and not in the one of the severely devastated areas of Japan. There was physical damage to buildings and only one death in the prefecture. But we hear from friends about the food rationing, power blackouts, bans on food and water, and in general the whole country is a mess because the transportation and deliveries everywhere are messed up, not to mention the fears about the nuclear crisis.

After 9-11 and Katrina, our sister city raised and sent money for us to put where it would do good – it was sent to the American Red Cross. After our local 2007 ice storm, they raised and sent $17000 to replant trees and later sent 9 master gardeners to help rebuild our Japanese Stroll Garden.

The motto of our local chapter is “Think Globally, Act Locally” and there’s already been a lot of local action. We’ve partnered with students from Missouri State University, Drury University, the Community Foundation to raise money. On Monday, at local restaurant Nakato Japanese Steakhouse will donate every dollar spent in the restaurant will go to Japan. And more fund-raisers are being planned.

If you’re in the area, come out to Nakato’s on Monday, or donate directly to the Japan Relief fund here.

Sketching Lunch at Paco’s

I’ve had The Tao of Sketching for a couple of years, but packing it along on a recent trip to Mexico was a great opportunity to truly study the book. Chinese artist Qu Lei Lei covers using a wide of variety of media and subject matter. Here’s a good review of the book by artist and writer Katherine Tyrrell on Making a Mark blog. I especially like this quote she highlights:

Successful sketching depends on two distinct elements to be combined: the understanding of how each medium works and the ability to measure the amount of time you have available against the scene you want to record.
Qu Lei Lei – techniques

The samples of his own sketches drawn in many countries around the world are a delight to study, and the included demonstrations are not meant to copied, but to illustrate how the reader might approach their own subject matter and draw from the heart.

As I read his “Beijing Breakfast” chapter about drawing groups of people who are constantly in motion, it all seemed simple enough. Just draw one person, then another and another…then finally the background and furniture because that doesn’t move. But it really is a great challenge to do in real life.

Here are couple of my attempts during our trip. In “Lunch at Paco’s” I tried to capture the feeling of a group of people gathered around a table, listening to songs, and the colorful ceramic plates on the wall of Paco’s house. I sketched first in pencil, then watercolor washes, and last added the ink pen details. It probably took about 45 minutes.

I had less time for “Quinta Patio Evening” and so used pen first, then only suggested a few colors with watercolor wash. As Qu Lei Lei suggested, I wrote a few notes about the scene at the bottom of the page to remind myself of colors and mood at the bottom of the sketch.

Stranger in the City

If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you know that I like to explore and photograph art in other cities, then try to write up some kind of original blog post about unexpected finds, like these in Philadelphia, Portland, Seattle, and Kansas City. I don’t know why I’ve never thought to do this in my home town — guess the old cliche of something being too close to notice is too true.

Last month I heard about a blogger who recently moved here from LA and after talking with the husband, I got inspired to put on my stranger in a strange land glasses and walk around town. Partly this was motivated because I’ve been trying to document public art in our region and get it listed on our Springfield Public Art blog.

But as these things go, the quest took on a life of its own. In attempts to profile public art works in their best light, I started visiting different city and park sites many times at different times of day and night. Getting out of my car and walking side roads I hadn’t traveled before was also a great excuse to get outside and soak up the wonderful October-November weather and brilliant turning of the leaves.

Since winter is just around the corner, there was an urgency to capture as much on camera as I could before the grass and leaves were completely gone — and the project became a little like a trophy hunt. And though most of the photos I was trying to get were rather didactic, I couldn’t help but stop along the way for other photos of lonely spots, unusual or forgotten things, and as my friend Christine says, “all things absurd, ironic and delightful.”

Here’s a few of my detour photos in the gallery below. Click to see larger.

As my collection of photographs has swollen out of control, I’ve been learning to use Aperture to organize photos – a very handy program indeed!  I’ve also been learning to geo-tag them and have gotten immersed in the world of Google maps and Google Earth — but that’s a whole other topic I’ll have to finish writing about tomorrow.

How do you make a really big ice cube?

I enjoy telling people that I work in an old peanut butter factory, next door to a paper cup factory, and down the street from a donut factory. So it should be no surprise that I was thrilled to receive an invitation to a party in an old ice house in Brick City.

An ice house, I found out is a place were they used to cut up, store, and redistribute big blocks of ice that were brought down on the railroad from frozen lakes up north before there were such things as electricity, refrigerators, and deep-freezers. Hence the old-fashioned term “ice box” was a wooden cabinet where you put a block of ice below your food to keep it fresh.

For the open house of Marlin Company in their new digs, massive blocks of ice stood like sentinels at doorways and in the front lobby of the third floor of this massive old building. Blocks of ice with words in them.

Begging the question, I don’t know how to make such good-looking ice cubes, but here are a few photos. Not only did they look good, the quotes inside had inspiring themes such as “Build upon a grand Idea, and nothing can tear it down,” and “Creativity is the currency of Tomorrow.”

Marlin Company is a creative agency, and some of the people who work there are also artists. And they support local artists in a big way. The front lobby is full of art.

Here’s some of my friend Stephanie Cramer’s work in situ. I didn’t really know it was hers until I had to walk across the room because I fell in love with that blue bird — and saw her name on the tag.

The big gear coffee table? Made from a gear out of the old elevator shaft of the ice house by Michael Stelzer, president of Marlin Company who creates hand-forged sculpture in an old barn in his spare time.

The flowers were done by the Flower Merchant over on Campbell. Some of the arrangements looked almost like alien beings, and the main centerpiece like a formation of moon and the planets swirling around our solar system. And since Marlin’s specialty is working with national food companies, of course all the food was art!

Click on a thumbnail below to see larger images and captions:


For those who have been wondering if I fell off the end of the earth, unfortunately for many weeks I was teleported to another dimension called Really Hard Work. Not just the brain-drain kind of hard work, but also the kind that completely wears you out by the end of the day.

I was able to sustain my energy by ingesting vast amounts of red licorice, coffee and diet coke. But at the end of each day, I didn’t feel like writing blogs or making art — all I wanted to do was come home and fall asleep playing Plants versus Zombies on the sofa. And since I sort of lost my sense of humor for a while, it’s probably better I didn’t write much.

Now that I’m getting back into the blogging mood, here are more pages from my sketchbook. While in Japan, we visited a high school, and I got a chance to draw the girls in music class. The school has a blue uniform that sort of looks like gym suits and looks very comfortable. I wouldn’t mind wearing a uniform — It would save having to decide what to wear every morning!