Artist Blog

Fabric and Costumes

For a list of my blogs by name, click here.

So how did fabric end up in my art? As you might imagine, I was already very fond of and familiar with fabric, long before I started doing any of this layered fabric art. Like many of us fabric fiends, I learned to sew clothing at a young age - that gets you started. My mother taught me what she knew, although she never really caught the sewing bug like I did. She had one of those old, black Singer sewing machines. It just sewed a straight seam. Nothing fancy. It didn’t even do a backstitch. You had to lift the presser foot, pull your work forward and stitch over what you just did. Crazy.

Since my mother never did much sewing, I only learned the basics. It really took me many, many years to get very good at it. I was busy with painting, photography, biology. Although I did continue to sew. My incentive was that I was really tiny. It was (and still is) extremely difficult to find clothing that fits. And, although I have little patience for some things, I seem to have patience for sewing. I’ve always enjoyed the act of sewing, rather than just wanting the end result. That is a must for anyone trying to learn to sew. You’ve got to be willing to take the time to properly cut the fabric, to line things up right, sew a straight stitch (and enjoy it), and to pull out stitches when you make a mistake!

Well, enough of that. Over the years, I collected fabric. I would go to a fabric store, and see all the possibilities. I made many garments, flawed though many of them were. I learned from my mistakes. And I have always loved costuming. Knowing how to sew was a tremendous advantage for that. Halloween was my favorite time of year. I still love Halloween, but I also became involved with the Renaissance Faires. Later, I created outfits for other events, such as the Dickens Christmas Fair, and various theme parties and events. What fun it has been!! Below are a few photos of some of these outfits.

Some Ren faire stuff. That last pic doesn’t really show my outfit all that well, but I thought it was a fun pic so there it is. I made all the outfits here except my friend, Nancy’s, whom I am about to swat with that pillow. Looks like a winning toss. We both ended up on the ground.

Below here, you see me wearing my Victorian day dress. I also have a ball gown in a muted lavender satin. Sorry, I can’t find a picture of that. On the right, I am in my early 19th century Empire dress, made for the Vampire Ball, which is why it’s red and dark and not in the usual pastels like you see in the movies.

Can I call these, ‘period’ costumes? Perhaps. The first photo is a costume I made for a Y3K party. The second is my Steampunk outfit. I even made the hat - the decorations anyway, which included a bunch of stuff I found at the dump.

And Halloween. I have made more Halloween costumes than I can possibly recall. That would require an entire website! But here are two. That’s me on the left in the first photo, as Kali. And me in my retro mummy outfit in the second photo.

Ugly Prom

Just for yucks, here I am all decked out for the Ugly Prom, held at the Ugly Mug in Soquel, CA. That’s me on the right. I didn’t actually sew anything here, just threw some old junk together.

I won the ‘Bad Dancing’ contest at the Ugly Prom. Even got an award for it.

Dance Award

My current fabric stash. This is not my art fabric, that’s yet another huge stash!

Fabric Stash

I also did some costuming for the local theaters when I was living in Humboldt county. Not sure I can show pictures here (property rights and all that), but you can see some of them on the website for North Coast Repertory Theater in Eureka, CA. You have to go back many years! But they do still have some of the old photos from the plays I costumed. Here are some links (the photos are mixed in with other plays - click on the play name toward the top).  Fiddler on the Roof, She Loves Me, Gypsy. Plus I made a few outfits here and there for other plays and other theaters. It was extreme fun and extreme exhaustion. Not sure I could handle it now.

To view my layered fabric mountainscapes, please click here.

My art through the ages, part 3

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Let’s see, where was I? Looks like I was writing about my photography days in ‘My art through the ages, part 2'. Of course, I continued to take photos throughout my life, though perhaps not with as much enthusiasm as I did in my 20’s. When I left College of Marin to attend UC Santa Cruz, I had decided to go into biology. I guess I was sort of following in my father’s footsteps. It is easier to pursue a career that you were immersed in your whole life, even if you were just tagging along with a family member. And I did (and still do) thoroughly enjoy the study of biology which, I admit, is rather a broad term. My father is more of a field biologist which, as I have explained, had a great effect on my appreciation of the natural world. However, yes, ‘biology', is a broad term and acquiring a degree in it takes a student into all sorts of subjects: molecular biology, genetics, natural history and evolution, chemistry, even mathematics, statistics and so one. And one does need to learn how to write. Yet I still took art classes and continued to paint and draw. I could never give up art and creativity. An artist will always be an artist. 

Here is an oil painting I made of a fellow biology student. Since, like all college students, she often had to sit for hours studying, she made a good model. That’s the Santa Cruz bay in the background. Just look at that ‘big’ 80’s hair! Makes her head look out of proportion. It could’ve been my lack of compositional skills.

Janet, studying

It is a shame that I have lost so many of my paintings from those days. Alas, I was a typical college student. I moved a lot. I had a bit of a wild social life. God knows where all that art ended up. I did manage to save a few. Below here is a small watercolor I made. I have never actually seen the aurora borealis. It is something I’ve always had on my bucket list.

Watercolor card

A pastel sunset:

Pastel Sunset


Another pastel:

Pastel mountains and meadow

I think those pastels were created later in my life, but since I lost all that art from my college days, I figured I ought to throw in a little extra something!

What’s next? I have engaged in so many art forms, I have to really think. After I left college, I worked as a research assistant at a genetic engineering company. Ugh. Not really me. It was interesting work, though, and I made some wonderful friends. At home, I got into writing stories and poetry. And costuming. I don’t think blogging on this website about my writing is all that relevant but costuming definitely is. It is how I got into fabric! Perhaps that will be in ‘My art through the ages, part 4’ blog.

And I did it again! I added a couple of pics to my last  ‘ … art through the ages …’ blog. sorry.

To view my current artwork, please click here.

Small Art

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This is how I started out with my fabric landscapes. I made a lot of really tiny artworks. I still do. Yes, they sell, since they are less expensive to buy, they don't require much wall space and there are usually more to choose from.

They are also the best way for an artist to let go. I mean that in several ways. First off, in my early days as an artist, working small helped me learn to let go of the artworks themselves. Creating all these tiny works made it hard to get attached to any one piece. I moved on, wanting to try another, and another and another. I believe this kind of approach builds compositional skill and imagination at a much more rapid rate than focusing on one large piece for a long time. Furthermore, making small works requires a lot less paint and fabric. I really just use scraps, something I have hoards and hoards of, so I am not worrying about using up my supplies. It frees up my mind. I am not afraid to try something new or ditch something if it isn't working.

Here are several I've been working on this week. These are all 8 x 10 inches or smaller. The layers are not yet secured, so I may still change my mind about them - change out some layers or toss all the layers back into my fabric bins. 

I use to give every single artwork I made a name, even the 2 x 3 in. sizes. My brother once asked me how I could come up with all these names. It took a lot of time and I bet I've accidentally used the same name more than once. Now the little ones are given 'names' like Sm 232, Mini 304. I have no idea how many of these tiny works I've made and sold (or given away) over the years. Too many to count. I keep pretty good records (and I've gotten better at that now) but it became quite difficult to keep track of them all, and to come up with new names.

To view more of my artwork, please click here.

A Horse and a Trail

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Me on rocking horse

Just FYI, I added a photo of my father and me to my first blog

Since my earliest memories, I've had a fondness for horses, as well as for the wilderness. For many horse people, the two go hand in hand. It does for me. 

Here is my first horse (the pic on the left). My parents would play classical music on the phonograph and I'd pretend I was riding through the Grand Canyon or someplace similarly wild and dramatic. Must've annoyed the hell out of everyone with the constant squeaking of the springs. I really went to town on that thing. I remember it well!

Pony ride

Occasionally, I got to ride a real horse. I believe this was taken at Tilden Park, Berkeley, CA. 

I had my own herd of horses, even though they were plastic.

When I was 11, my mother remarried a man from Montana. We took trips to the 'Big Sky' country to see my step dad's homeland and family. Lots of natural beauty, wilderness areas and horses. I was thrilled. The drive there took us through the Rocky Mountains. We visited Glacier National Park. It was amazing. Every now and then on those trips, my step dad would say, 'I'm going to see a man about a horse' and, decreasingly hopefully, I'd think, 'maybe he really means it this time … '. 

Mystery Gal and me

However, it was my step dad who finally helped me acquire my very first real horse. We built a corral together and a larger sort of pasture area (can't really call it pasture since this was in a redwood forest). The picture here was taken where we purchased her.

I rode this little gal all over the hills.  There were many trails through woodlands and meadows. I rode with friends, but often I rode alone. I loved it! 

As an adult, I did not own a horse until I was almost 50. I did not have the means and I was busy in college and working and doing so many other things. Sometimes life is like a big fair and you want to go on all the rides. Alas, as one person, that's not really possible, not for most of us.

But I did return to horses. 

Below here is my dear sweet Wally - beloved family member for eight years now. I ride occasionally with a friend or two, and I do enjoy that very much, but usually I ride alone. When the only sounds I hear are the wind in the trees, birds, insects, perhaps a burbling stream, and my horses softly plodding hooves on a dirt trail, I am truly happy. 

Me 'n Wally

To view my artwork, please click here.

My art through the ages, part 2

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Just so you know, I added a couple more pics to my last post (3/16). I try not to do that very often. Seems a bit unfair. 

In my early 20's, I entered the photography phase of my life. For as long as I can recall, my father has loved taking photos. He became quite obsessed with it when I was in my teens and 20's and has been an active photographer ever since. Even in his 80's, he lugs around all this cumbersome equipment. I get tired of having to wait for him but he did teach me a lot about his art form which has no doubt played a great part in who I became as an artist, including what I do today.

Like myself, or perhaps the other way around, his subject matter is mostly nature oriented, although he does have hoards of excellent photos of friends, family and various other subjects that he has found amusing. During my childhood, he took me on many journeys throughout the western US wilderness areas. He was usually looking for wild animals - mostly very small animals such as lizards, insects, and salamanders, to either photograph or collect for his studies and classes (he taught biology for most of his life). He did his doctorate work at UC Berkeley studying Ensatina, a type of salamander out here in the west. I can't tell you how many 'slide shows' of just Ensatina I have had to endure. 

In any case, I learned to appreciate all kinds of critters that we share our world with. I also learned to love the wilderness in general and all that I discovered there while on these travels. I still haven't found a way to get my color slides into the computer. If I do, I will add them here (and let you know in a later post, sorry!).

Here are a few of my black and white nature photos. I can't recall what creature made those odd nests. Some kind of insect, I imagine. The lemur was at the San diego zoo.

And here are a few photos with people in them. The photo of me (in the hat) was taken by a classmate for an assignment in portraiture. Thought I'd throw that in for yucks. I was about 22 years old. The girl with the snake is my little sister. What a good sport she was to pose with this large python named 'Boner'. Boner belonged to my roommate, a fellow biology student who had a very pronounced sense of humor.

And some color pics. An albino bullfrog and a rattlesnake - a biologist friend of my father’s collecting venom (just one of those things a field biologist’s daughter can occasionally encounter).

Here I am taking a picture of something in the desert, early 1980's:

Photography in the desert

And here's a photo of my father (early 80's, I think), looking for salamanders, and one of him peering out from under the shrubs. I think that second pic was taken in his back yard, but this is how I frequently saw him out on our trips. 

I'll have to ask if he has any photos of us collecting or photographing together (I can't find any), but here's a cute one of the two of us when I was a child. It is hard to find pictures of me not making a face, especially as a child. I was a bit of a monster with an 'unusual sense of humor' as is actually written on one of my elementary school report cards.

Dad, me

Perhaps it's a kind of personality by-product one acquires from growing up around insects, reptiles and the like. And all the weird stuff one finds in a college biology lab - bones, skulls, brains and such in formaldehyde, real stuffed animals. I remember a stuffed two-headed calf (or fawn) in my father's lab. You have to have a sense of humor. Think Gary Larson. I worked in the biology department at College of Marin for a few years. I recall setting up a lab one day. I needed the full human skeleton - the upright kind on a stand with wheels so you can wheel them around from class to class. I finally found it in another lab at the sink, wearing a pair of dish gloves, a sponge and a plate in its clutches, and a towel over a shoulder. The perpetrator, one of my co-workers, was a good friend of my roommate, the one with the giant snake named Boner.

There's a little more info about my upbringing in my first musing.

To view my current artwork, please click here.

My art through the ages

For a list of my blogs by name, click here.

As I started to write this blog, I was thinking about all the different forms of art I have engaged in throughout my life and was about to start with that, as though that was really something special. And then I realized that considering all the many forms of art that exist, I have really only participated in a small fraction of them. Indeed, it seems there are new art forms being invented every day.

For each of us, however, the whole of our creative experiences is unique. No matter how varied or limited, there's always a lot of interesting stuff from the past, if one takes the time to look back. Thus I decided to dig up a few things from my artsy past to see what that reveals. 

Making a horse

I have always been enamored of horses, so you'll see some here.

I am painting a (paper mache?) horse in this very old photo. I made the horse using toilet paper tubes and I forget what else. I'm sorry no one got a picture of the horse, but I remember it. I think I was six years old.

Below are more horses and our cat, Rosemary. I was maybe seven or eight years old. I actually signed the drawing of Rosemary, hastily, just initials. I'm sure some adult told me I should sign it.

Horses, Rosemary

My mom framed this acrylic painting I did of horses in a forest. I found the painting in a box in my parents garage some decades later. I don't think it was finished. When I was a child, most of my art, finished or not, ended up in one of the many giant heaps of stuff I had in my horrendously messy room. Eventually, inevitably, the stuff in those heaps got mangled or worse. I think my mom wanted to rescue at least something.

Horses in the forest

Here is a batik and some kind of painting where you scrape off a top layer of paint (can't recall exactly). I made these in my art classes when I was ten years old or thereabouts. The batik was meant to be hung in a window. I taped it to my studio window for this photo. Very 60's.

Batik, alien planet

LOTR characters

I really got into drawing in high school. I was also into 'The Lord of the Rings'. I used to bring the book with me deep into the forest and read it sitting on the ground, leaning against a tree. I am currently reading, 'The Hidden Life of Trees', by Peter Wohlleben. I knew it! So fascinating!

Here are some drawings I made of various characters from, 'The Lord of the Rings'. All from my imagination, and with the help of J.R.R. Tolkien's exquisite writing. There had been no movies made yet, not that I knew of. 

I don't know who the two characters at the top were suppose to be, but the two at the bottom are probably obvious to any Tolkien fan - Bilbo (or Frodo?) and Legolas.

And dragons ... another Tolkien influence. I started embroidering in college. Not that I took any classes in it. Some friends taught me. I embroidered many things but dragons were my specialty. Truth be told, Tolkien's influence has been with me my whole life.

Another dragon (
watercolor and felt pen) and a castle (watercolor):

Dragon, castle

In my early 20's, with the help and influence of my father, I became an avid photographer. Again, it wasn't a profession (meaning I didn't sell anything) but I did win a number of awards. I have yet to unearth what I have left of my old photos and many of them are on slides. I'll need to figure out how to get them into the computer. So, come back for the next post as I continue our journey into my creative past!

To view my current artwork, please click here.

Fun with time-laspe videos

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I have been trying to figure out how best to create a video of myself working on my art. I thought a time lapse video would work well since an artwork can really take a long time. I know I wouldn't have the patience to sit through an entire session of an artist creating something, from start to completion. 
 At normal speed, a video short enough to keep one from getting bored isn't going to show much. I have been quite amused and learned much by watching other artists' time lapse videos so I though I'd give it a try. I have yet to perfect this, but thought I'd share what I've managed so far.Here I am in my studio. I want to learn how to slow things down a little as this is a bit too rapid, I think. Makes it kind of funny, though:

If you cannot view these in your browser, my apologies. You can also see them on my Instagram or Facebook page.

This browser cannot play the embedded video file.

I'll also need to work on exposure. I have a very nice camera I would like to try using instead of my phone. This still isn't the completed artwork. Over the following two days, I changed things quite a bit with this piece and still I am not sure that I'm done. Perhaps I'll post a photo of it when finished - I mean before I secure the layers and call it completely finished. For the next time lapse video, I think I will do a smaller artwork. That usually takes less time.

And, just for fun, here is a time lapse video of the storm last night as it was approaching. The cloud formations were amazing. There's nothing like seeing with a real pair of eyes, but you might enjoy this:

This browser cannot play the embedded video file.

To view my artwork, please click here.

Art, nature, and good health

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I don't think many people would argue with the statement, 'viewing art is therapeutic'. And from my perspective, creating art is also therapeutic. As well, a search on internet will reveal countless studies of the health benefits of nature. For many of us, that's obvious. But I have also read about studies that suggest that even images of nature can have health benefits - lowered blood pressure, lowered anxiety, improved mood, etc. Think of the usual medical costs of treating these illnesses. It would be easier, cheaper and far more pleasant to spend time in nature or, at the least, keep images of it on your walls.

For most of my life, including my childhood, I have lived in or very near a natural setting, and I'm not just talking parks or gardens. I was able to walk out my door and, in minutes, be within some sort of forest, often with a trail that went on a long ways, through wild fields and more forests. It was not always easy finding places like that to live, but find them I did, even when finances were tight. The few times I lived in a city, I felt as though I was being bombarded with a constant rain of irritating objects. Noise, pollution, lifeless concrete. Some of us are more sensitive to it than others. I have had a lot of fun in cities, but I cannot live there. Now, I am finding out about all these studies that essentially demonstrate that how I feel without nature is very common, only many people either don't recognize it or can't change it (or, I should say, they think they can't change it). 

Here is a corner of our current 'back yard' in Nevada City, California:

IMG 0704

Furthermore, even if we live where nature is outside our doors or down the road a short drive, we often have work to do indoors, either at home or at an office. It is easy for the day to slip by and never once find the time for even the briefest walk in nature. That's where my art comes in! I think it is one reason I started creating it. It is something I can do indoors when the weather is bad, while being creative, and yet get a bit of that sense of nature. Although nothing compares to actually being outside in nature, I definitely feel calm and more centered when I work on my mountainscapes. 

A part of our land at our previous homestead in Fieldbrook, Humboldt County, California:


The view from our home in Blocksburg, Humboldt County:


When we moved to Blocksburg, I felt like I had moved into one of my mountainscapes. It is one the most beautiful places on earth I have ever been to. If you are ever up that way and want to see this for yourself, take the drive from Garberville on Alderpoint Rd. through Alderpoint and Blocksburg to Bridgeville. It is absolutely breathtaking and well worth the time. 

It was too far from my husband's work and after a few years we decided to move but a part of my heart will always be there, as I think is evident in much of my art.

I mentioned in a previous post that I have witnessed someone shedding a tear or two while viewing one of my artworks. That has actually happened several times. As an artist, I have never been more moved myself, knowing I can touch someone like that, in a way that is very personal to them. I don't need to know what it means to them and I never approach anyone who appears to be having such an experience. But, emotionally, I am deeply touched.

Art of any sort is fascinating and probably therapeutic in some way. For me, it is especially the images of nature, even if abstract, that give me a feeling of calm and peace of mind. I know it is good for me. 

To view my artwork, please click here.

Artwork Transformations

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I am not one to force anything when I am making art. Not very often, anyway. It's not that I am trying to follow any new age idea about how art should, or should not, be created. I just tend to try this and that, as if I am perpetually goofing off. I have never been very disciplined about a lot of things. Of course, I am when it's necessary, like with flying and driving. And when it's something I badly want. I did manage to get a degree in biology and a pilot's license. But, as you may have surmised after reading my post entitled, 'Art is Personal', I do not always follow the program. Especially when it comes to being creative. I don't think I would be very good with group art challenges. I might be, sometimes, but it is not how I prefer to create.

Here, I will give you an idea of how the process goes for me when making my mountainscapes.

Right now, I have several artworks I am working on. I guess that's usually the case. When I am stumped on one piece, I start a new one or go back to one I had sitting around already. And when something isn't looking quite right, I either end up changing out many (or all!) of the layers, or I toss them in the scrap heap. Here's a sort of timeline of a work in progress:

Artowrk evolution

Above is only a small number of the many changes I made to this piece. I really loved my second choice of sky and got a little hung up on that - just the sky piece. In the end, all the other layers ended up back in my scrap heap. A week or so later, I rediscovered a piece of fabric that, for a long time (many years, in fact), I had been very intrigued with but had never found quite the right place for it. Next to that lovely sky, it was perfect:

Artwork evolution2

That's only two layers of fabric. The sky is one piece of fabric and all the rest is also a single piece. Sometimes I use many layers; sometimes I use just a few. The way I paint fabric is tremendous fun. This look of trees and meadows was not planned and completely took me by surprise, as does most of my painting. The colors bleed and blend unpredictably every time I paint. As I have said before, I rarely paint with any particular plan in mind.

Here's a glimpse of my messy studio, and a silly selfie:

Messy studio

I hope someday to make one of those fast forward videos that many artists these days are showing on their websites, etc. That might be interesting, perhaps revealing, even to me.

To read more about my art process, please click here.

To view more of my artwork, please click here.

Wild and Scenic Film Festival Art Awards

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When I submitted a few of my artworks to be juried for showing at the art venue for the Wild and Scenic Film Festival here in Nevada City, I didn't realize there was also a competition involved. Not until I heard that I had been selected to show did I learn that they would also be giving out awards. I have never entered my art in any competition before so I was stunned when my name was called at the opening art reception.

W and S award, 2018

Mountain Twilight

They chose, 'Mountain Twilight'.

The Wild and Scenic Film Festival is an incredibly inspiring and well attended venue. I was truly honored to be a part of it! Surrounded by all these people who are working so hard to help shed a bright light on some of the most important issues of our time, finding solutions for these issues and expressing a deep love of not just nature, but all of our planet. A love I obviously share with them.

To learn more about the festival, click here for their website.

To see a photo of myself with the other award winning artists, click here.

Below is a picture of myself with artist Erica Johnsen and her gorgeous sky paintings, also juried into the show. We all thought our artworks complimented each others' very well.  

Our works were displayed at Avanguardia Wines Tasting Room in Grass Valley where we also sampled some very delicious wines. Thank you to Rob and Marilyn Chrisman for showing our art at their lovely tasting room! 

To see my earlier blogs, click 

For a list of my blogs by name, click here.

To view more of my artwork, please click here. (707) 223-3037           © Kimberlee Ellen Brown 2016