Some days I feel unproductive, then…


Whenever time stalls, due to lack of good light, being out of something, just being at a stopping point for the day, or having to wait for the next fleeting idea, I’m reminded of a line from “Thumb Wars.” “Waiting to be killed, waiting to be killed…” That’s how it feels to have work that’s not finished yet!

With so much going on this year, it’s easy to start to feel like I’m not being productive enough. Then I put a few pieces on my table that are nearly done for that day and I see that I have in fact been pretty productive. Some artists work in spurts; they get an idea and paint madly for awhile, then need a break. If pieces are small, it can feel like it’s not going to cover much wall space, but a few big pieces make up for it.

Working spontaneously and not over thinking things is really important to the way I work. Thoughts of being unproductive, or forcing myself to work on something, just don’t result in more, or better, work. Often, such forced sessions end with me gessoing over the day’s work! The energy that makes me like how a piece is going can’t be forced. If it’s going to work out I generally know it pretty soon into the piece. I will only give it another chance if there’s significant investment in it, or still has some part I do like. Later, a flash of insight may come to me. Or maybe later I’ll get a better idea for the one that got gessoed over, and redo it better.

I marvel at artists who plan everything and then carry it out exactly. While I can work from a plan somewhat, it takes me longer, and I have to let it take on a life of its own if it seems to want to. I draw a lot, and sometimes translating a sketch to a painting makes me feel I lost some of the spontaneity that made me like the drawing. In that case it’s important not to go too closely by the sketch, but to let the painting come into its own. It’s rare I actually transfer a sketch directly onto a canvas, though sometimes I will if it’s really important to keep it from escaping the bounds of the canvas, as I have a tendency to make things get too big and go off the edge more than I wanted.

How do you work? Do you just dig in, or do you plan, or some combination? Some method that isn’t covered by those two generalities?

Painting Bigger Today; Countryside Magazine


Mostly finished a large palette knife painting today on the patio. Beautiful weather for it! The light was fading, and our birds were wanting to come back in, so I packed it up for the day at about this point. After I got in, the birds came out to play for awhile. After they went to bed, I added a few more strokes to the painting. It may be done now. I’ll think about it tomorrow.

The painting is “Swear Jar,” acrylic, 36 x 48 inches, on deep edged canvas. It will probably be in  Olney Gallery in September, (price as yet to be determined). It’s based on a quick drawing I did in a sketchbook some time ago. Whenever I’ve heard that expression, I thought of an angry monster in the jar trying to get out.

Last week, I finished, (or at least mostly finished), all the miniatures on wood scraps, and haven’t decided where they will be shown yet. Some will probably be at Olney, and some with {9} The Gallery when I do the show slated for October, that will focus on animals, especially since deciding to no longer eat them.

And, though I don’t have my issue yet, I’ve seen photos proving it, and the author, Jerri L. Cook, has confirmed it, Jenny Garcia and I were featured in Countryside Magazine for I think the June issue! Jenny made the art doll of my long passed away hen, Fergie. Her life-like chicken dolls are amazing. I’d followed her on Facebook for months and last year finally had her make one for me. I’ll post more about it when my issue arrives. Jenny’s site is Pet Chicken Ranch

After years of blogging here the ‘add link’ feature finally seems to allow me to title links instead of just posting the URL. So I hope that works for viewers. Looks nicer!

Today in the Studio


An unfinished sculpture for a fall show watches over the work table. Today I’m cutting out old drawings from my sketchbooks, and words from newspaper and magazine headlines as captions, to collage onto lumberyard scraps. These small pieces will also be available at fall shows. A completed one sits among them.

I keep a large drawer of collage materials, and go through phases of what look they have. Making several at a time they tend to be in series of similar themes. I like to use acrylic gel as an adhesive. The wood blocks are sealed with Golden Paint Co’s GAC 100, an acrylic made for the purpose of sealing wood and other materials, before I add anything. (GAC 100 is also a great all-purpose acrylic medium.) Sometimes the wood grain and knots, etc, will show, other times they’re painted over and then roughed up a bit so wood peeks thru here and there. I like crackle effects so those are frequently part of the overall finish. Once all the artwork is dry, I seal them again. These are a good use of scraps, both wood and sketchbook kinds, that might otherwise end up in the trash!


Only two left, numbers 4 and 8! $45 each at {9} The Gallery on Grand in Phoenix!

There are still two similar miniature pieces available at {9} The Gallery, 1229 Grand Ave, Phoenix, AZ, out of the 9 cube shaped pieces I had there. I’ll be showing at 9 again this year, details to come when they are known!

Sculpting a bigger butt, and adding eyes


Enlarging the behind, work in progress, 2016

Decided one of the sculptures in progress needed a bigger butt. I enlarged it with an air dry clay called Paperclay, not to be confused with a kiln fired clay of the same name. This can be hard to find at art supply stores but I reliably find it at Michael’s. Last time I got it, it was the last one in stock! Whew!


The pin holes in the add on buttocks are to let more air in so it dries faster and more evenly. I put it in the sun to really bake it dry! After it dried, I smeared small scraps of thin chiffon fabric with acrylic medium, and pressed that down over it for some added strength. Other fabrics work, too, but chiffon seems very strong and flattens so well it’s barely detectable.


When that was dry, I put a thin coat of Golden’s heavy modeling paste over it, and made fur texture with a  home made texture tool. I save plastic cards etc, like used bus passes, and cut a pattern into them to make a texture. You can paint or glaze over the dried texture to get various looks. If you can’t wipe off your paint/glaze before it dries, you may be able to carefully work that area back again with a rag and some rubbing alcohol, or fine wet-dry sanding film and minimal water. I usually have a damp rag in one hand and work fast, but the more aggressive methods will work if an area dries too fast for the rag alone.


Eye detail, sculpture 2016, Cindy Schnackel


Here’s a close up of the eye of one sculpture. I bought realistic eye balls from a maker who makes them specifically for use in arts and crafts, etc. A lot of the processes I researched involved baking various clays in the oven, or other toxins, something I didn’t trust to be safe in a house with pet birds. I may explore some other ways to make my own eyes, but in the meantime, these are fabulous, and I sculpt the lids, etc around them after attaching firmly to the substructure. I debated whether this sculpture would even have eyes, since I kind of liked the way it looked without! But, in the end, I’m glad I put eyes in it now. Perhaps a different piece will be eyeless.

By the time these are shown in the fall, I may have changed things, but here’s where they stand now.

Painting, sculpting


Working on paintings for a September show, and both paintings and sculptures for an October show.


The gray critters on the lawn started as armatures made of empty plastic containers and cardboard tubes. Above, they are further along and drying in the sun on a lawn chair. At this point I’ve used several types of adhesives, fabrics, and modeling compounds like paper mache, paper clay, and of course any piece of stuff from the recycling bin that is the right shape.

Though I used various adhesives when called for, a lot of the construction is made of cloth strips soaked in acrylic gel medium. The resulting shell is durable and not prone to soften again while working on it. Lightweight, too! The outer shaping was done partially by wrapping like this, and also paper mache that I added some acrylic medium to, to make it adhere well and be water resistant when dry. Thick parts of the paper mache layer were poked with a chopstick to give them some air holes so it’d dry faster. They would be filled in later as I work on details of the animals with finer grained materials like acrylic modeling paste.



Four paintings in progress on the patio table. All are painted on vintage sheet music I found at a thrift store and adhered to panels. They dried nice and flat, must have been nice paper in those days.

Didn’t find any eyes in thrift store toys that satisfied me, so I resorted to ordering fake eyes for sculptures, and as soon as they arrive I’ll be adding eyes to some things that don’t have any. But, in a way, I’m kind of liking the no-eye look of one, so you never know!

I have taken later pictures of several paintings and sculptures, but they’re all too close to being finished now, to keep displaying them, until the shows are being announced (late summer-early fall).

Mutant Piñata progress; Shows

Mutant Piñata!

The Mutant Piñata drop off is in just a couple of weeks! My husband, who is into technology, has a phrase for projects that get out of hand with ideas to make them more cool: “Creeping Elegance.” (He once had me draw a creature to depict Creeping Elegance, which his team at work had made into T Shirts!) I don’t want to be caught at the 11th hour, still not done, so, I’ve actually simplified my original plan, which was pretty hazy anyway. Nonetheless I might have to title my Piñata “Creeping Elegance.” We shall see.

Below are some progress shots and descriptions of how I made her. (I’ve decided she’s a woman, but you can decide otherwise if you like.)


Making big eyes

The eyes are plastic domes from a thrift store picture frame. Some were dented so it wasn’t suitable to use as a frame, but they were perfect for this. They’re about the size of the plastic domes on top of various slushy or ice cream drinks only there is no hole for a straw. I started by scuffing up the inside with fine sandpaper. Then I painted the whites of the eyes with gesso. The light blue iris is gesso tinted with blue acrylic paint. The pupil is unpainted. Since the creature’s body is now black, the iris looks kinda black, but also like you can look inside the eye, because you can, sort of! I left some plastic around the edge to have something to hold it down with.


Inside the cone; structure, and tentacle base

The body is a cardboard cone. The cardboard was about 3 x 4 feet I think, thin and flexible, more like tag board. It was some sort of packing material in a grocery store that was trash, and I grabbed it. The cone is held in place with duct tape.

The small cardboard disc with sticks and wire was adhered with gel medium near the top inside of the cone. It gives it stability and is a way for the hanging wire loop to be attached.

The second disc is larger, and has holes because I plan on stringing fabric tentacles thru them, so they’ll hang down below the body and flutter.


Tentacles threaded thru the cardboard circle with holes

Threading strips of chiffon fabric thru the holes and making them stay by tying knots. This was costume fabric I bought long ago on sale, because it was cool. Since I don’t see myself dressing up as a fairy any time soon, I decided this was where it was destined to be used.

When I’m ready to put the tentacle disc in permanently, I’ll use some gel medium so the tentacles can’t easily be pulled out, and also to adhere the edges of the disc to the inside of the cone body. This disc could show so I painted it dark. I had some really dark purple that was almost black, and needing to get used, which worked great for this.




Eyes and tube mouth attached

The cone is wrapped in strips of cloth soaked in a combination of black gesso and gel medium. SUPER MESSY! I worked on this outdoors for that reason! Even being cut with clear gel, the gesso is really opaque and black. It was Dick Blick gesso, mostly, but some was also Liquitex. Gesso alone might have worked for this, but the gel medium is more sticky and I wanted to be sure things adhered well.

It has dried to a nice leather like material, pretty sturdy, and not heavy. Before I attached eyes and a tube mouth, I had let it hang and dry for a couple of days. I also painted the inside with more of the dark purple/black. The strips of cloth go over the excess plastic around the eye-domes, securing them in place. That way I don’t have to rely only on adhesives or gel medium really sticking well to plastic long term. I split the excess plastic around the domes with a mat knife so they’d conform to the body and not resist being wrapped and held down. Wrapping the cloth around them created nice wrinkly things like might be found around real eyes.

The mouth is a cardboard tube. I used a mat knife to cut some X’s in the body to make a hole that would fit the tube and hold it securely. I glued it in with gel medium and wrapped it with gesso/gel soaked cloth strips. The flared starburst lips are a piece of waste tag board from packaging, twisted into a cone, and cut, shaped, and painted.


Getting close to done…

Above is where it ended today, with the chiffon fabric ‘tentacles’ cut in tapered shapes, fluttering in the breeze. The disc holding the tentacles is temporarily held in by the other end of the wire from the hanging loop. I will gel it in when I’m ready. At this point I may have more messy stuff to do to the body, so I still want to be able to remove the tentacle disc.

I need to think on it a bit now, and see what else I want to do, or have time to do. We have great weather for working outside now, warm and dry. I hope to finish it this week, and since there shouldn’t be any more large areas that need hours to dry, that shouldn’t be a problem.

Creating it has given me ideas for a more of these, and more complex ones. Maybe next year!

My husband is also working on one, and I like it a lot. I know he wanted to do a lot of electronics in it and may not have time, but I think his is really good just as it is.

Info on the annual show sponsored by Beatrice Moore who has done so much for the arts on Grand Ave!


Two or more Upcoming Shows

I’ll be busy making enough work for essentially 2 solo shows this fall. One is not a solo show for sure, it’s a 2 person show, but the space is large so the amount of work is equal to a solo show. One show will be at Olney Gallery, 2nd Ave and Roosevelt in Phoenix, one at {9} The Gallery on Grand Ave in Phoenix. These will be happening in September and October, (barring schedule changes). Besides these, there is at least one and maybe several group shows I will try to do, as time permits. Will give details when things are more concrete.