Mary Goes eBay!

Right now I’m just listing good items that I’m not using any more or never used or can part with. I do a lot of research on each item to describe it and price it fairly. I’m getting the hang of it—I’ve sold all but two of my (I think) 14 listings.

I may also start listing some of my necklaces and other art. There is a category for “Artists Representing Themselves,” which sounds good to me. So if you want to know what I’ve got on eBay at the moment, just click the eBay button. I don’t always have something listed, as I travel a lot, but I’m working on it

Right now, listed Feb 19, I am listing an Apple Wireless Bluetooth Mouse and an Apple Wireless Bluetooth keyboard. Check it out!

Back from Florida

Florida was fun. I hit the beaches, east and west, Atlantic and Gulf, collecting shells and photos of jellyfish, watching the ships and happy beachlovers, walking for miles in bare feet, shorts and a tank top. 83 degrees. I combined research for a Florida beach book with healing sun time, making lemonade from the disaster in my house.

Last night I finally got almost everything put away, vacuumed and dusted, and look forward to designing Lake Effects III poster this week, along with, perhaps, a poster depicting “Day at the Lake”, or perhaps a 4-season poster, all to be published by April, 2008.

About my diet: In December, I was convinced by The China Study to attempt a vegan diet, a step beyond my already mainly vegetarian lifestyle, eliminating dairy products, all of them, from my life. I found the vegetarian part possible on the road during my two-week trip to Florida (I drove from Michigan and back), but no-dairy was not an option. Road food was abominable. I packed a cooler for the trip south, but return sustenance depended on Qwik Marts.

But I tried. I found it easy to quit drinking the gallon a week of skim milk I’ve done all my life: After two no-milk months, I find I no longer have achy joints, no more pain in my hands (that I’ve endured for ten years), no more acid reflux. I would never have believed I could quit taking ibuprofen and tums, but it’s happened. It’s made a believer out of me. (I get my calcium and vitamin D from supplements, sun, and other foods.)

Doctors seem so bored by the simplicity of nutritional fixes. It’s just not fun science, I guess. But seems to me that during the last seven years my rheumatologist might have suggested going off dairy. Apparently, doctors don’t suggest diet fixes because they assume patients won’t do it. I’ve managed to do it mostly, allowing myself an egg or two a week, pizza on a weekend, and I eat anything anyone is gracious enough to prepare for me.

Besides the health benefits of my no-milk diet (I find soy milk just fine on cereal), I’ve found another surprise: Food tastes so good. I feel as if my taste buds woke up. Everything tastes better than I can ever remember. Is it the type of foods? Have my taste buds been dulled by milk casein? What’s happening here?

(The painting, called “Love Is Blind” measures 30×40 inches, acrylic on illustration board, depicts a couple on the Fort Lauderdale beach plus my imagination. $700, framed.) CLICK ON THE IMAGE TO ENLARGE IT.

Painting for Lake Effects III (summer poster) has begun!

I made a bargain with my generous hosts: I would exchange the original paintings eventually used in Lake Effects III (the summer poster completing my Lake Effects poster series) for at least six summer weeks access to a window to paint them from. In May I went for the first week and my rather outrageous proposal seems to be working! I have totally lucked out, with interesting, compatible hosts and a beautiful place (specifics to remain private) to enjoy a real Lake Michigan summer.

Two changes will distinguish this last poster from the first two:

1) I’m going to include several panoramas—paintings that take up two, three, even four spaces—instead of making all the paintings the same size. I love this effect, which communicates that wide horizon and makes clear at a glance that this poster is new.

2) Less noticeable but still important: The Lake Effects III view faces straight south over Lake Michigan from the southern shore of the Upper Peninsula. I will have to travel down to lighthouses to catch the sunset or dawn straight on, but the waves are phenomenal, sometimes rolling in all the way from Chicago. Manistique beaches are particularly surf-layered on windy days.

The new poster is scheduled to debut at The Timmel Collection, a wonderful gallery in Saugatuck, on Columbus Day weekend, October 6-7. Original art completed for the project—including the many pieces not in the poster (only about 30 will be chosen out of more than 100 pieces)—will be displayed (and sold!) there for the first time.

Click on the image to ENLARGE it.

Mary Gets a Job!

I will summarize each blog here, where I would have written it, and provide a link to

This is quite a gift to me and I’m excited to get started. Look for new breast cancer blogs next week. Meanwhile, I’ll continue my writing, art, and other blogging right here, so don’t go ‘way! Here’s the latest, and the reason I haven’t appeared for a couple of weeks:

I just returned from two weeks in Florida where I painted palm trees and beaches.

This was my first–and my favorite–painting. About 12 inches square, but clearly visible across a room, it celebrates one of the new life-guard stations, a $40,000 replacement for the one destroyed in a recent hurricane. Life Guard Station Number 11 squats at the end of the street I walked to the ocean beach from my borrowed condo. It is also across from a new Fort Lauderdale Trump Tower which is due to soon rise from impressive foundations.

Click on the image to enlarge it.

New Necklaces!

It’s a sort of madness, I suppose, all this bead-making and -stringing, as each necklace probably takes me half a day if I count the time making and/or sorting the beads. Once I get going, though, I find it hard to stop. The sun is shining and the weather is becoming mercifully mild, but I’m inside, waiting for the plumber to tend to a sink disaster but not minding it a bit that it’s already been five hours. I’m just loving the excuse to sit here making one wild thing after another.

Click on the image to enlarge it. Get a closer look–individually sorted out–newly posted on the Designer Artisan Jewelry Page.

Bead Day

I waited too long to get going on my bead project this time, because I made beads with a vengence, having quite a way to climb out of my irrational depression. I made beads for hours, for days. I made beads until my old nemisis, tendonitis, send my wrists back into their worn, 15-year-old black leather bowling braces.

But it worked. Just look at those colors. I had so much fun making beads that I couldn’t stop and now my wrists are too sore to string them. But that’s okay. Ice and ibuprofen and a few novels to tempt me from using my hands for a while and I’ll be fine.

But for now, observe and weep. Or, better yet, run over to your local craft, art, or hobby store and stock up on some polymer clay. All you need is a book from your public library on polymer clay bead-making, a few blocks of Sculpey or Fimo, some bamboo skewers for making holes. I also use a dedicated pasta maker, a toaster oven that I bought for $9 at a thrift store, a razor blade for clean slicing, and a block of floral foam to dry the final beads that I’ve painted with glossy varnish. (I bake my beads in the basement, as the fumes are not very breathable.)

So here they are, a bead bouquet drying on barbecue stakes. Wow. I am so cheered up. And whattaya know, all sorts of good things have begun happening. For example, I just got offered a blog job I never even applied for, and I took it. Stay tuned!

Click on an image to enlarge it.

To see some sample necklaces I make from beads like these, click here.

Three Days in a Writer/Artist’s Life

Thursday: I begin every day checking my email. Today I get an order from my website for a tapestry bag, a necklace, and a fish print. I haven’t made the bag yet (I’m sold out after Christmas) so have offered to make it to spec and am waiting for a phone call. This client said she’d read my entire blog, including my breast cancer blog, and said she was moved by it. This is a wonderful way to start a day.

I spend a pleasant hour sorting a big bead order I recently bought on-line. I like sorting beads…I get to know what’s there and it has a meditation effect.

Around 10 a.m. I stop by the Mary Blocksma Gallery in the Gypsies building to hang my newest painting (Parrot Girl) in the coffee shop with sign I’d made on Word and printed out to go with it, check my mail, water the plants, and buy an oatmeal cookie from Jack, whose deli shares space with the coffee shop in front of the building.

Next I drop by the newspaper office to pick up a contract I’ve been negotiating for over a month with our local newspaper: I am proposing to write and illustrate a weekly column called “Nature in the Neighborhood.” I want to keep my rights and get paid too, so the problem was sent to the attorney’s office, a wormhole into which things apparently vanish for a very long time and emerge in a very different shape.

I still am uneasy about the rights business, so I spend a great deal of Wednesday rewriting the contract so I can keep more of my them, although not all. I drop a copy off at the paper at about 3 p.m.

By 4 p.m. I on my way to Saginaw to order two very big mats, as they are having a 50% off custom framing sale at JoAnn’s. Anyone who has had anything framed lately knows how expensive it is, so I do my own framing, buying especially large frames from yard sales and thrift shops and ordering the mats when the sales are on. While I’m there I pick up card stock from Sam’s Club, which is the only place I can find heavy enough stock with a glossy enough finish to print notecards.

I am not home long before a friend comes over unexpectly who has already seen Parrot Girl in the coffee shop. He wants to commission a portrait of his beloved holding a bird something in the manner described in a poem he has written about her. I agree to this if he’ll agree to my minimum commission charge of $300. He will think about it.

That evening, after a beer with another friend at a local watering hole, I work on a full-length acrylic-on-illustration-board portrait of a particular beautiful friend. I’ve done everything by the hair and the background–the basic layer, that is–but I can’t do the hair until I decide on the background. I try blue-green and hate it. I go over that with a springier green that I like better with her pink gown.

Friday: My website client calls and we decide on bag details and I take her order. I spend two hours making the bag, beading the strap, and packaging everything up. Suddenly I realize I haven’t paid my credit card bill and panic that I’m late and my interest rates will triple. I’m right–I’m two days late. I spend the next thirty minutes on the phone trying to rectify the situation and then another thirty minutes figuring out how to pay the bill on-line and hope that my damage control was sufficient.

I can’t remember in what order do everything but here are some things that get done:

1) I realize that I really don’t want to give up ANY rights on my column, so I go on-line and google some things like self-syndication and I find out that I can ask about half the price I was asking if I syndicate. I don’t mind giving up half the price to keep all the rights, so I call the editor and suggest this on his voice mail. He calls back later in the day and says it sounds fine but he has to check it out with the attorney. Back to the wormhole.

Meanwhile, I will have to come up with my own contract but can’t find a sample on-line so I’ve ordered two books, one from and one from the library, and although I’ve written the first column and done the art, the whole thing is on hold until a) I hear from the attorney and 2) I figure out how to write a self-syndication contract.

Persistence is what wins out here. It takes a lot of patience to see a new project through to the end, but it’s all possible with patience and tenacity.

2) I suddenly realize that Valentine’s Day is nearly upon us and I have nothing in my gallery that is remotely relevant except a few pink rose cards. I spend a couple hours designing a couple of valentines, one from a painting I did some years ago of a red rose and another from a red heart that I paint with brilliant Dr. Martin watercolors. I scan it and plan it, print it, cut the cards on the paper cutter, fold them, package a couple dozen of them in little clear envelopes.

Next I roll twenty Bay City posters to restock my nearly empty supply at the gallery. Finally, around noon, I get to the gallery with a stack of cards and a bundle of rolled posters. I order Jack’s oatmeal for lunch. Yum.

3) After a nap, I am plagued by worries about my book, What’s in the Woods, for which I have done a couple hundred small watercolors, but which I’ve been blocked on for about a year. I decide to jump in and solve the problems. I work until 10 p.m. redoing the outline and simplifying the book to be a clue-book to identification, taking out a lot of the education stuff that was cluttering it up and bothering me. I did a new storyboard for the entire 48-page book while I “watched” the opening ceremonies of the Olympics.


1) I take out all the art for What’s in the Woods and realize that I have a show here. I have been planning to do Spring Show at my gallery with at least 15 new paintings (I’ve done five so far this year), but I realize that I could frame up these wonderful little watercolor studies (the Wood Thrush is one of three images on one of the studies) and, if I had the book printed by then, I’d have a really incredible show and booksigning combined. I decide to try for early June for my show, book and all.

2) I spend most of the day working out the first spread: the book design, how I will set it up. This one involves big bright winter birds. I work for hours to find a way to hand-write the captions and notations to look more friendly than type. Handwriting is hard to scan but I’ve decided to set everything up on PhotoShop instead of InDesign, using the layers to move things and add the captions. I am pleased with the results and am ready to really hit it, now that I’ve set up the format, which is the hardest part. Fortunately, I learned all the layout programs when I did What’s on the Beach? so at least I don’t have to learn a complicated new layout program.

3) I spend an hour and a half writing this blog entry. I forgot to mention that I spent time working on this website Thursday and Friday too, adding blog news and doing other webmaster chores. Now I have to get to the post office and the gallery before they close.

Life goes on.

4) I thought my work day was over but it’s not…I returned from the post office with a Netflix movie to find an email from one of my wholesale clients. I don’t get many winter orders from galleries, gift and book shops that carry my work…there are about fifty of them now. I work all winter to have something new for summer. Over the years I’ve become very fond of some of these people who have supported me, some since the beginning of my art career about seven or eight years ago, and I always like getting mid-winter news.

Bay City Snow Day

When I paint using photographs, it’s obviously important that the painting be a lot better than the photograph, and it’s always been pretty easy to do that. It was harder this time, because this new camera is so good and I set the composition up on PhotoShop, combining three or four photographs, picking out interesting shapes, making sure I had the wonderful age range represented that really is there.

I like the result…it’s pretty much what I’ve been carrying around in my head: the fabulous, almost silhouetted shapes at the top of a white hill against a white sky. It can only be Bay City because you can see the lights tower that presides over the softball field on the right. I also made sure to put in the pigeons that frequently perch in rows along the bridge lights.

I’ve waited years, but finally we got a huge fluffy white snow on a Friday night, so Saturday at ten a.m. our riverside park was joyful with color against a still-pristine white.

Bay City Snow Day is acrylic on acid-free illustration board, and measures 36 by 15 inches. Click on the image to enlarge it.