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V. Notes

What are V-Notes?

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V-Notes are dailyish thoughts and ideas related to art. I might post a series of pictures, a technique, an idea for a project, or some philosophical rambling. I try to make these emails relevant, but they’re not pre-planned, and they’re not perfect. They’re just thoughts in the moment, take ’em or leave ’em. Hopefully they’ll spark some thoughts and help get your artistic juices flowing.

Ruthie V.

Painting a studio

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I have a new little studio to fix up. It’s a mess of a space; low ceilings, filthy and rough, but full of potential. I thought I’d let you know how I make decisions about fixing up a studio space. Today, I’ll talk about the paint. Painting an empty room is such a simple thing, and yet I’m about to discuss it at impressively extensive lengths. Do not overlook the simple things. They can be very complicated. 


As an ex-paint professional snob, I am fundamentally opposed to Behr, awful stuff, but other than Behr just about any paint company is fair game. Most companies have top quality and low quality products within their lines. There happens to be a Sherwin Williams across the street from me, and the guys there have been great to work with, so I’m going with Sherwin Williams’ paint. I chose the Super Paint. Honestly, Super Paint is too nice for this application, but I figure 1 coat of great paint is better than 2 coats of shitty paint, it’s on sale, and nothing could be better than a paint store across the street. As far as paint quality, if you’ve ever painted a ceiling with a roller, you know nice thick paint means more paint gets on the ceiling, and less on you, and that can be worth something. Also, nicer paint isn’t as fumey (to me), and it’s a pleasure to work with. I like watching good thick creamy paint go on the wall. It covers well, and I enjoy myself.  


I like the way the studio floor looks already. It’s old plywood, with the previous layer of old grey-blue paint benignly chipping off. It looks old and worn. I like the sense of time in it. Plus – who cares? It’s a painting studio! I’m just going to get it messy anyway, right? So the floor doesn’t matter. But…. it is a little dark, it is definitely dirty, paint chips come up when I walk on it, there are splinters here and there, and it’s too rough to clean with a broom or a mop. Since I crawl around on my studio floors a lot, I drop things and want to be able to pick them up without having them covered in debris, and since I touch the floor, then surfaces that I don’t want to get dirty (like nice paper). A dirty floor will make for some sad future moments. That settles it. I’m painting the floor. I’m painting it with with SW Porch and Floor acrylic.


The walls are bumpy and flawed, so I chose flat paint. Whereas glossy paint flashes dark and light at every bump, calling attention to flaws and making a surface look hard and sharp, the tiny granulations in flat paint diffuse the light, and soften roughness. I like the way flat paint looks, but not the way it feels to touch, so any areas that are touched (doors) will be in semi-gloss. This isn’t for washability, it’s for touch-ability. 


I didn’t like any of the whites in the Sherwin Williams fan deck. Not for this studio. Too grey, too pink, too yellow, no no no said the picky person. None were quite what I wanted. I am particular about these things. I wanted the maximum amount of light reflection, bright as possible, so the base of the paint was “high reflective white.” To that, I wanted a bit of warmth. I did want to make the room feel soft and friendly. I wouldn’t recommend this color to everyone, but for my own personal preferences, yellow ochre is the undertone for almost every painting I do. I love yellow ochre.I love any color mixed with yellow ochre. Yellow ochre is in my paintings, it’s in my skin, my favorite scarf. Other colors go in and out with my moods, but I have always felt happy and comfy in this color. A bit of yellow ochre mixed with bright white looks like mascarpone: creamy. So I made my own recipe: I asked for Y3 pigment in the paint. Y3 is the paint store equivalent of yellow ochre. I saved my own special recipe: “Studio Walls.” Yum.


Before I choose any color, I look to see where the light is bouncing. If it’s bouncing off the ceiling, the floor can be dark without darkening the room much. But here the brightest source of light is bouncing off the floor. The first surface the light bounces off of in a room determines the light and temperature of the whole room. If it’s black, it’ll eat the light. If it’s red or green, the light will bounce red or green. In the studio, there is a window that lets in light. It comes in and hits the floor. So even though I’m not a clean white floor kind of gal, this light is important to me and I want to facilitate its travel through the room. I chose a color that has a lot of Y3, plus charcoal grey: “Useful Grey” from the Sherwin William’s palette. The light from the window comes in, hits the warm light floor color, and carries through the room. Perfect. 


Because it is a small room, and I want to de-emphasize all the stops and starts and angles in the room. I want to keep the continuous flow of wall-ceiling-door surface as smooth and undramatic as possible. I want my attention to be on my paintings, not on the pretty color of the doors. This means keeping color transitions to a minimum. Instead of changing colors and having pretty colored doors, I used the same creamy color on everything: ceiling, walls, trim, and doors – changing only the sheen on the surfaces I’ll touch. 


I like good paint, and I like good brushes. They make the work enjoyable. Purdy used to make the best brushes, but they’ve been bought and sold and bought again. Wooster brushes are now my favorite. Give me a 2.5″ Wooster alpha angled sash and I’ll happily paint all day.


Day 0: Installed window, replaced trim, kicked some ass (Thanks Steve!)

Day 1: Pulled out nails and poky things (Thanks Lauren and Derin for doing this while I was outside painting the mural)

Day 2: Spackled, small repairs, sweep, scraped floor while listening to Anne Carson’s Autobiography of Red, and a podcast about sound engineers for nature documentaries.

Day 3: Primed ceiling and walls while listening to Lendy read school numbers, then left for the day because the primer stunk, and we were surrounded.

Day 4: Painted ceiling, painted walls, painted floor (1st coat) while listening to the Archers.

Day 5: Painted doors and trim, painted floor (coat 2) while listening to Radiolab’s story on The Gondolier.

Tomorrow: New electric wall plates; a worthwhile splurge.




This is a painting studio, not a suburban palace. So while I am particular about light and color, I’m not aiming for flawless. The house painter in me wants to do another coat, but the fine art painter in me sees the moments where the slightly grey-white primer can be seen through the luminous top coat, and it looks like areas of paintings I admire. I think paint moments like this are beautiful, and they’ll help me remember to stay relaxed with my paintings – even if I don’t consciously see them, an imperfect room is much more relaxing to me than a perfect room, so I’m leaving them. Goals achieved, perfection is imperfection.

Photographs of subtle paint holidays are not easy to take, but here’s a little corner moment:

So – there it is. Painting studio painted. 


William Scott’s Paintings

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William Scott (1913 – 1989) British artist, known for still-life and abstract painting. He is the most internationally celebrated of 20th-century Ulster painters. (wiki)

Yesterday I posted charcoal drawings by William Scott. Today I’m posting his paintings. I look at these as a series of compositional experiments. I like to look at each object that he separated, grouped. I look at the uncomfortable comedy, the energy charge each shape gets in different placements with other shapes, and how they associate with the edge of the canvas. If you think about composition like a game, it’s more funner. Composition for the win!!!


Re: Resisting

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Dear Ruthie,

Uh, there will be vulgar language and sexxxy images in WTF Resist! I mean, even more vulgar language than usual from me. It’s all in the name of art! But I thought you should know. Let me know if you have guidelines beyond what common sensitivity dictates.


Dear Suzanne,

Ok I’ll warn peoples. Got anything I can send out for a post?


Dear Ruthie,

I’ve attached a few beauties by Hans Haacke, who is a personal favorite but won’t get much, if any time. Sorry, righteous old white dude. He will be in the For Further Reading/Looking handout.

If you want something that I will actually discuss, I’ve attached a photo of the Art Workers Coalition protest in front of Guernica during the Vietnam War.

David Wojnarowicz, who has become my personal hero, also has some solid quotes:

Bottom line, each and every gesture carries a reverberation that is meaningful in its diversity; bottom line, we have to find our own forms of gesture and communication. You can never depend on the mass media to reflect us or our needs or our states of mind; bottom line, with enough gestures we can deafen the satellites and lift the curtains surrounding the control room. – Close to the Knives: A Memoir of Disintegration

Also from Close to the Knives:
I want to throw up because we’re supposed to quietly and politely make house in this killing machine called America and pay taxes to support our own slow murder and I’m amazed we’re not running amok in the streets.

To the barricades!

Hugs and kisses,

Sunday – Don’t Miss This!

WTF Art History Series:


Suzanne Walker

This Sunday, June 4

$20 (Free to active Leaguers)

“This is going to be awesome”
-Suzanne Walker

William Scott’s Sketches

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Sketches in Charcoal Continued from Yesterday….

William Scott

William Scott (1913 – 1989) British artist, known for still-life and abstract painting. He is the most internationally celebrated of 20th-century Ulster painters. (wikipedia)

From Yesterday: Inspired by my recent trip to see the Diebenkorn/Matisse exhibit, I chose these drawings specifically to share how vine charcoal can be used in a drawing to talk about change, movement and time.

Vine charcoal is a lovely medium. One of the oldest drawing mediums, vine charcoal is just a simple burnt branch, typically grape vine or willow, that has been burnt in a kiln without air. Resistant to detail work, it concentrates the drawing practice on line and mass shapes only. It allows the artist to make a line, smudge it out, and make another. The dark lyrical lines and soft smokey areas of grey are surprisingly elegant on paper. As the model moves, or as the drawing is adjusted, the series of smudges and lines can add both depth and creation narrative – the recorded story of how the drawing was made.

Matisse Sketches

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I chose these sketches specifically to look at how vine charcoal can be used in a drawing to talk about change, movement and time.

Vine charcoal is a lovely medium. It’s just a simple burnt branch, and it allows the artist to make a line, smudge it out, and make another. The dark lyrical lines and soft smokey areas of grey are surprisingly elegant on paper. As the model moves, or as the drawing is adjusted, the series of smudges and lines can add both depth and creation narrative – the recorded story of how the drawing was made.


Glen Alps

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A pioneer in 20th century printmaking, Glen Alps was the professor and creator of the Printmaking Department at UW. Alps coined the term “collagraph” for his prints in the 1960s. The process was much more involved then traditional printmaking methods such as engraving, serigraph, or etching.

Collagraphs are a low-tech, low toxic, and accessible printmaking process. The word is derived from the Greek word koll or kolla, meaning glue, and graph, meaning the activity of drawing. The resulting print is called a collagraph.

Saitō Kiyoshi

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Look how the grain of the wood became the courtyard gravel. I love when rather than making a material pretend to be something different, a material is a material, and just a little bit more. I have been looking at Kiyoshi’s woodblock prints. He was most famous for his “Winter in Aizu” series. Sorry for re-introducing winter just as we’ve finally flowered into spring! A bit dreary for the season, but I like them.

Franz Kline’s Chairs

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I’ve loved Franz Kline’s black and white abstracts for years. I didn’t know until recently that the forms were sparked by the shapes of a rocking chair, and that he used a projector to see his inspirations large on the wall before he painted. OMG because I use a projector too! I must be just like Franz Kline. But… it was William de Kooning’s projector. What did he use it for?


From Wikipedia:
It is widely believed that Kline’s most recognizable style derived from a suggestion made to him by his friend and creative influence, Willem de Kooning. A romanticized interpretation of events by Elaine de Kooning   described how in 1948, Willem de Kooning advised an artistically-frustrated Kline to bring in a sketch to his studio and project it onto a wall with a Bell-Opticon projector. Kline described the projection as such:

“A four by five inch black drawing of a rocking chair…loomed in gigantic black strokes which eradicated any image, the strokes expanding as entities in themselves, unrelated to any entity but that of their own existence.” 

As Elaine de Kooning suggests, it was then that Kline dedicated himself to large-scale, abstract works. Over the next two years, Kline’s brushstrokes became completely non-representative, fluid, and dynamic. It was also at this time that Kline began only painting in black and white. He explains how his monochrome palette is meant to depict negative and positive space by saying,

“I paint the white as well as the black, and the white is just as important.”  – Franz Kline (wikipedia)

League Members in the Kirkland Artist Studio Tour

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(2015 photo above by SomanMateo Photography)

Katherine Wright and Lendy Hensley are participating in the Kirkland Artists Studio Tour. Katherine is teaching Intro to Watercolor at the League this summer, and Lendy teaches Intro to Oil. Both will have their lovely paintings on display for you to see. Great to see our artistic community is active and thriving.


KAST 2017

 May 13-14 | 10am-6pm

Stop by KAC for a fun-filled weekend! 
Pick up a tour map, grab a bite to eat, and discover 14 local artists.
Free Kids Activities | Sat & Sun 11am-2pm
Live Music from Kat & Friends | Sun 3pm-5pm
Just Jacks food truck | Sat 11am-5pm
Tabassum food truck | Sun 11am-5pm




Nikki Barber – Printmaking In Northern Thailand

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The League is venturing into print arts!

We asked Brian Lane of Print Zero Studios who was the most funnest, least stuffy printmaking instructor around, and he said “Nikki Barber is hilarious.” We met and hired Nikki straight off the plane from Thailand, where she had traveled to broaden her studies of printmaking, and yes, we confirm it, she is very fun. At the League this summer, Nikki will be teaching woodcuts, collagraphs, and “intro to everything” printmaking. Links and invitations coming soon. 

This Wednesday evening, Nikki is giving a talk on Thai printarts, in association with Seattle Print Arts, and Pratt Fine Arts Center. (Info below)


Seattle Print Arts presents:

Printmaking in Northern Thailand

A talk with Nikki Barber (Seattle) and Nicholas Luna (Thailand)

Wed. May 10th, 7pm @ Pratt Fine Arts – Print / Drawing Studio

The Thai art scene is increasing its global presence. The advanced technical skills of Thai artists, including printmakers, are getting international recognition as more and more “farang” or foreigners visit the country.

Together, Nick Luna (Thailand) and Nikki Barber (Seattle) will help reveal what the printmaking scene is like in Chiang Mai, Thailand. They will explain why the Land of Smiles earned its nickname and what it is like to visit and live in this beautiful country– outside the tourist district. They will also have some of the works on paper from local Chiang Mai artists, as well as prints they were able to create in Thai Studios available for viewing.

Nikki had the opportunity to spend one month as a studio-based artist in residence at Rajamangala University in Chiang Mai. There, she was able to interact directly with students, faculty, and Thai artists; and compare and contrast differences between Seattle and Chiang Mai. Being in the print shop everyday, she was also able to learn first-hand the technical differences and similarities in printmaking. Nick, a westerner who has resided in Thailand for the past seven years, works at the Unversity of Rajamangala where Nikki was in residence. There, Nick is able to teach and serve as a liaison between western and local Thai artists, while also creating his own art pieces.

Nikki Barber is a member of Print Zero Studios in Seattle.

Nicolas Luna is a former Seattle Resident who is doing an artist residency with Urban Artworks, Print Zero, and Teresa Getty.

This event is FREE. There is also FREE PARKING.

We look forward to seeing you on Wednesday.


Pratt Fine Arts – Printmaking / Drawing Studio
1902 South Main St. Seattle 98144