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Why Is My Garden Such a Lonely Green?

I’m not talking about that emerald spring green that I love so much. Oh, but we did enjoy it while it lasted, as a few (several) photos will show. Spring was a bountiful display of  some happy new perennials, even though most of my early spring bulbs were affected by the prolonged winter, and by the deer that discovered many emerging bulbs this year.

I did spend a lot of time and money last year trying to infuse more variety into the gardens, in colour and blooming times. The vast majority of plants around the house were blooming in the summer, so I attempted to make the waiting time shorter for this year. I was so hopeful that I was going out almost every day expecting to see welcome changes. It was good while it lasted!

Here are a few of my spring favourites:

 

 

Now, this here pic that follows shows the early signs of what I dreaded might happen. I must admit that I enjoyed the energy they brought to the garden, and in truth, if there wasn’t so much birdseed being shoved onto the ground, maybe the rodent population would not have boomed! There have been times that the blue jays were to blame, but the feeder rising up from that post became the habit of several pairs of black birds, and they raked through the feed relentlessly. You would think they were looking for something, but they were very bad at finding whatever it was. My husband was filling up the feeder almost every 2 days, and when he came home from work, he saw it spread on the hill of the garden in a wide diameter with birds and rodents everywhere.

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If the black birds would have only taken a bit at a time, like the other birds, and wouldn’t have come back so often to make a mess of things, it wouldn’t have been so bad. But we desperately need a different spot for the feeder to discourage so much trampling of my plants, which cost a great deal to put there in the first place. This is an early photo of the area, but my hosta and the black-eyed susans near the base of this feeder are stunted from all the fondling by the chipmunks and squirrels looking for seed! They’re even eating the coneflower heads before the flowers can bloom. It’s not uncommon to see 5 chipmunks at the same time in the same area of the garden. We’re long overdue for some traps. 😦  Otherwise, I’m afraid they will be trying to get into our house in the fall/winter. The number of new holes around the house is a bad indication.

After a late end to winter and a rather short spring, we have also been enduring a long period of heat waves with few slightly cooler days to break it up. Bracebridge has had a fire ban for a while now.

Last year, it rained all summer and the spring green colours stayed on almost into August, with my black-eyed susans taking that long to finally bloom for the lack of sun. This year is completely different. I haven’t complained about the heat, not after that extended winter we had, but my gardens are not yielding me much joy this year, and it isn’t just the heat to blame…

 

[Hover over the photos above for descriptions (or click on the images).]

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This photo shows that the yellow lilies in the back were wonderful, but that was all I got in June. They were so fragrant! Oh, the little snail sculpture in front is no more – I went out one day to find that its face was 4 feet away (not the whole head, just its face…). And, see the delphiniums getting taller in behind? Wait for it…

Now, for my chicks and hens… Let’s just say that the roosters are plentiful this year.

 

Each grouping of photos show the development of the roosters. These aren’t the only ones, but they’re the most interesting. Apparently, when the hen is going to die off, it transforms into a “rooster,” sending up a rather phallic-looking growth, which then flowers and spends its seed on future chicks. Meanwhile the current year’s chicks turn into next year’s hens. I thought it was the coolest thing when I saw this happen for the first time last year, but there was only one then. This year, there are at least 6 and I’m showing you 3 of them.

 

And then there was the promise of the iridescent blue and purple delphiniums. This is what they looked like on June 30, and look how many more were yet to get showy!

 

But I went away for a few days, and when I returned, this is what I found. The squirrels and chipmunks took down ALL of them, and nothing could be done.

 

I kind of gave up for a while after this. My expectations became very low.

 

 

Well, the feeder is currently still standing in the same spot, but hubby puts out very little on the platform and does not fill it. We like the birds (except for the black varieties… ahem), so it would be a shame to take it down, all because of the few that have ruined a good thing. But the garden territory was not meant to sustain so many families of chipmunks, common squirrels, and now even more red squirrels… They need to move on, not move in. Yikes!

That aside, at least there is hope for some relief from the heat soon. And here is the latest sign of beauty in my front garden, soon to be joined by bursting black-eyed susans. Summer blooms are finally arriving, and I hope they can last well into the fall!

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Screened-In

Ahhh, this is the good life! When at home, enjoy the bug-free outdoors in your own screened-in porch! Day and night.

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It took us a while. We knew that after 2 years of black flies and mosquitoes, we wouldn’t do well living next to so many trees. But with a late start to the spring, and a short one at that, my husband was still building this protective enclosure when it was getting too hot to work in it anymore. He finished closing it in with the screens at the end of June, and he continued to work away on finishing the outside while it was 34 degrees C (or nearly 95 F).

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And this is the beating the hydrangeas took in the building process. But they’re are doing well, and in full bloom now, and they’ll come back thicker again next year.

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This was the view as you rounded the house to the backyard last year.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

But, the view from inside the structure is magnificent. I didn’t even realize that I could watch the sunset from my own backyard, as it goes down through the trees (look right in the center of the photo). And there is a breeze that was non-existent from the other deck.

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All that is left are the roof, whether that is shingles or metal (it still remains to be decided, so the roof has a temporary covering to protect the pine from the rain), and other minor, but time-consuming, finishing touches. That doesn’t stop us from fully enjoying it as it is. We come out in the evenings after supper and watch Masterchef Australia as season 10 is nearing the finale.

It’s so cozy in here that you could sleep comfortably under the stars – safe from the bugs, out of the dew, and lately it’s been so warm that there’s no need for a sleeping bag. But, I can’t promise you’d be able to sleep in, because there are just too many critters making a racket at 4 a.m.

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I’m blessed to have such a peaceful haven for a backyard. Now, I can create art out here too!

I did have a visitor on July 4th, much to my surprise. First, it landed on the closest tree beside me, and it peeked around both sides of the trunk at me. What was that flurry of red? And so big… Aha!

Then, it hopped over to the next tree, which is mostly dead… (watch the video and see what it did next)

 

 

And, here’s another, much smaller, fellow… Red squirrels are rather shy, but when I’m in the porch, I see them all the time, only a few feet away.

 

 

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New Artwork: “Ruby”

As promised, I’m sharing a finished piece (finally) that I started back in February with intentions of entering it into the spring members’ show. My other two pieces took too much of my available time, I guess. This one is much smaller (8″ x 8″), but I wanted to do the subject justice, since I consider these creatures to be amongst the most awe-inspiring in their beauty and power, contained within such tiny bodies.

“Ruby” is the title of my latest painting of a ruby-throated hummingbird, which is hovering in front of a hibiscus flower and about to sip its fill of the flower’s nectar.

About a month ago, when the hummingbirds returned to my backyard, I remembered my nearly completed piece. When I finally devoted some time to focus on the final steps involved, it took only a few hours to add the finishing touches of painting and the sealing coat, divided over a couple of days to allow for needed drying time.

As you can see, because of the glossy surface, it is very difficult to get the desired quality of photograph to show this piece online. I have uploaded one taken from an angle to show the details with less glare. In person, the viewing is much easier. 🙂

I hope you like this handsome fella,

inspired by the sweet visitors to my backyard!

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Art on Display at the Bracebridge Town Hall

The Bracebridge Town Hall has once again welcomed members from Muskoka Arts & Crafts Inc. to show their work within the community.

MAC member artists who have submitted works for this show will have their art on display at the Bracebridge Town Hall for a 2 month period, starting May 31 until August 1, 2018. Continued future shows are likely.

This time around, two of my originals will be showing. Both pieces have cottage colours, but are different styles in acrylic painting. The first, titled “Off Grid Sabbatical,” is made from acrylic skins with the look of stained glass. The second, titled “Rugged Rectangles,” is a textured, abstract piece and uses some metallic colours.

Both of these pieces should be seen in person to appreciate them completely, not only for their textural elements, but also for the way the light dances along the surface to bring out the layered colours.

Anyone can stop in at the town hall to view the paintings on display throughout the halls. Most of them are for sale, and visitors can inquire to purchase while they are there.

 

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Art of Where – On Demand Printing & Unique Products

Recently, I happened to discover “Art of Where,” which is a company based out of Montreal, Quebec that offers on-demand printing of artwork, along with a variety of unique products that can be made from digital art images. So, I have set up a shop to offer some unique products using my own images, from prints to pillows, and scarves to kimonos.

For a few years now, I have been looking for a Canadian-based company so that I don’t have to pay customs fees on international orders. That way, I can offer my customers more reasonably priced products.

I also have a shop on Fine Art America, but they can ship only art prints from within Canada, while all their other products (mugs, pillows, etc.) are made in and shipped from the U.S. and elsewhere in the world.

If you are a Canadian artist and have suggestions regarding where you have offered your own unique products on demand, please forward them to me! I’m looking for quality, as you are, of course, but also for the right price (no extra shipping/customs fees for our customers in Canada).

Here is the link to my shop, if you would like to have a look! Art of Where: Michelle Vyn – Vine Art

I have added only a few images so far, but if you are interested in a print/product from one of my paintings that is not yet on the Art of Where website, please let me know.

Here are just a few samples of products they offer, using a few of my shop images:

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Like a Phoenix Rising from the Ashes

My “Phoenix Rising to New Life” painting is a very personal piece, as I’ve always felt like a phoenix rising from the ashes.

Since the phoenix is mythological, I took the liberty of depicting a more peaceful bird to represent new life. Its magical lift and effortless flight promote an appreciation for its confidence and grace, even while it is vulnerable during this stage of renewal.

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Phoenix Rising to New Life / 30″ x 40″ / acrylic on canvas

If you have ever felt like a phoenix rising from the ashes, then you will see a lot of symbolism. The level of the lake is flat, much like the flatline of a heart monitor. The rising elevations of the mountains hint at the power and strength of the new life, versus the flatline.

There is fog on the water, signifying the morning of a new day. The fog also acts as a cover for the phoenix, as it seeks a safe direction to start its journey.

Of the 4 tail feathers, two are peacock-like, one of which resembles a human eye. This eye was not meant to be the all-seeing eye of God (or perhaps I would have placed it more within the triangular area of the mountain). Instead, it is a human eye, which serves to remind us of where we have been and what we have learned, so that we can take part willingly in the transformational process of renewal.

The phoenix was a Christian symbol for resurrection in the time of the early church. The leaves on the tree occur in sets of three, pointing to the triune God. Therefore, it is fitting that the tree is in the foreground and that it stands out somewhat 3D from the rest of the painting. It also shelters the phoenix somewhat, and serves as a marker of its complete departure from its past.

Meanwhile, its old body lies in death, which is represented by the rocks in the lower right corner of the painting. It is a human body, with female form, lying in the position which it fell in death. But it wasn’t all for nothing. There are already spring flowers bursting from the fertile ash in the crevices of the rock, indicating that we leave a legacy that helps others to learn from the past and look forward to a better future.

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Upcoming Art Show: Uncorked, Unbuttoned, Unbridled

This upcoming art show is for Huntsville Art Society (HAS) members only. As a brand new member of HAS, I must admit, I struggled with selecting which of my finished pieces fit the theme, “Uncorked, Unbuttoned, Unbridled.” I narrowed it down to 3 pieces, and then I asked my husband how he thought they fit the theme. When he heard the show title, he gave me a look with raised eyebrows, and I could immediately sense that his imagination conjured up some interesting ideas.

I’ve had my art selected for similar, theme-styled member shows before (with Muskoka Arts & Crafts), where the theme was open to interpretation, and only a handful of members were able to submit something suitable, sometimes keeping with a very literal interpretation. I didn’t have time to create a new piece before the entry deadline in this case (as a very new member), so I looked through my inventory of finished pieces.

I didn’t explain to my husband my reasons for choosing the above 3 pieces, not until after he confirmed or denied whether they fit in the least. Obviously, these are 3 very different styles and subject matter. The phoenix is bursting into new life while its body has been forgotten in death (turned into rock in the lower right corner, with spring flowers already blooming, as if it is a fertile rock garden). “Piano Blues” conjured up (for me) thoughts of dancing along to some upbeat jazz and getting right into the party. In my hubby’s opinion, my phoenix painting got his thumbs up, while “Piano Blues” was a stretch. “Convergence of the Four Winds” could also have fit the bill, with its aerial view of cyclonic winds let loose on the world. So, I submitted 2 out of 3 images accordingly, and waited.

It turns out that many members entered the show, and I don’t know if any were turned away, but only one piece per member was chosen, mainly for space reasons. Having only a limited idea from thumbnail photos of accepted entries, I’m still wondering how some of them fit the theme, but maybe I will understand when I see them in person. Such is the way of interpretation.

See the poster below, along with my submission that was accepted into this juried art show. Surprised?

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First Hummingbird Sighting 2018

Hooray! I’ve been following the sightings that people have been recording on this website, so I knew they were getting closer to Muskoka in their migration. In eager expectation, I put out the hummingbird feeder a few days ago. When I saw them today, I had to submit my own sighting on the website.

It was raining for most of today, so these photographs are from indoors and looking through the bay window. The wind didn’t help me get many pics that were in focus, but I still got proof of the return of these lovelies. There was at least one pair, but the pics only show the male.

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In the above photo, you can see the ruby colour at its throat. But even though these pics are all of the same bird, its throat looks black in some, because of the light.

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He even looks a little chubby when he is at rest. So sweet!

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Spring Has Finally Arrived!

Winter 2017-2018 was LONG, but good riddance! We received piles of snow well into April this year, and it’s only been completely gone from our yard now for about a week.

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Lake Muskoka was still covered in ice on April 15th.

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On April 24th, the snow had to be shovelled off our back deck so it could melt in the sun. My back garden was completely bare. Thanks to the deer for chewing the few tulips out back down to nothing. Since the snow and ice still covered the front gardens, those tulips hadn’t yet emerged, so they were safe.

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On April 29th, the sun is finally high enough in the sky to melt the snow on the front yard, but there is still a small patch.

 

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And there were only a few crocuses in the front garden then.

 

 

 

 

 

But now, I am proclaiming a long overdue welcome to spring!

In fact, on May 1st it seemed to go from winter temperatures the day before right into summer (while snow was still on the ground ?!@&!?). Of the snowdrop bulbs I planted, not a single one came up, in the front or in the back. They should have done so before the crocuses, which makes me think something was wrong with them. I won’t buy bulbs packaged by that company again.

Every spring, I can’t resist touring my gardens to see which of my “green babies” has just burst out from the ground, day after day. In the sunshine, I can almost watch them growing. It helps to cheer my soul after the winter blahs.

Now, everything is coming up (except for one out of 3 lupines I planted). We may have had a slow start, but it’s all catching up!

I’m so excited to see my gardens fill out this year, after all the work I’ve put into it. Finally, I can rest in knowing that I shouldn’t have to do much work with it this year, except some maintenance, but that is a peaceful activity.

Happy Spring!!

 

 

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Writing Contests

I know it might sound strange to say I’ve been busy writing, while the number of posts I’ve made here doesn’t remotely approach the total word count. But, I am forced to keep it under wraps, at least for a short duration.

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Writing away on my laptop

I’ve decided to enter some of my writing into various contests, which require that the writing has not been previously published or even within the judging period (not even on a personal blog). The winning entries from these contests are to be published for the first time, so I don’t want to disqualify any work that I’ve entered.

Today, I submitted a short story for this contest: The CRAFT Short Fiction Prize

It’s the first year I have ever entered writing contests, and I have mapped out several for the coming months. One could plan out a whole calendar year of entries! Since I’ve only recently decided to do this, I’ve made 3 contest deadlines in the past 2 days. Keep in mind that these were mainly finished stories that only needed to be tweaked to stay within the entry guidelines. I’ve submitted not only genre fiction stories, but also non-fiction essays/memoirs, poetry, and a children’s story. Most of my ideas for full-length books are still in my head, but these are snippets from them.

Entering contests is one way for me to step into the writing world. They serve to add a little motivation, as long as the timing is right for me to polish an entry.  

Eventually, I will get some things published, but I have to be my own editor, cover designer, etc. for indie publishing. Children’s books require a lot of illustrations, and it all takes time. My memoir is currently sitting at 115,000 words, and I’m not finished. I think it will need to be divided into 2 very different finished books, but I will get there! 

Meanwhile, there is always art to express myself, when words fail. It seems I am always doing one or the other lately (painting or writing), because there is healing to be found through the arts.

To all you writers reading this: I hope this has encouraged you to be courageous and submit your writing. Take a look at some of the past winning entries and honourable mentions that are published on contest websites to see what the judges thought stood out from the rest.

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Mako the Golden

We lost a true friend this April. I write this to honour the furry fella, Mako the Golden.

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Looking back as life keeps moving forward.

Mako was always adventuresome. This dog lived the life of a true companion to his chosen master, always willing to hop in the truck (front or back) and hang out at the workplace through the day, and never missing his ride home.

He knew his pack. As with any dog, one master rose above the rest, because the dog choses on its own. Mako started with one owner, then circumstances moved him around within the same family, but eventually, he decided on the one. He went with him wherever and whenever he could.

But Mako knew and loved all the rest who came and went from the home he claimed as his own. He greeted everyone like he hadn’t seen them in ages, even if it was only a few hours since he last smelled them. Many people came and went from his lakeside home, and he hung out with everyone on the dock and in the boat(s). Ducks and fish were a few of his interests, and he couldn’t keep his nose away from a potential catch, or meal.

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Eyeing up a potential meal, with my daughter and my sister-in-law.

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Showing some interest in my son’s fishing hobby.

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My daughter had a special attachment to Mako, and the feeling was mutual. She was much more than his trusted tummy-scratcher. When his master had to be away, Mako stayed at our house and he slept in our daughter’s bedroom on his own bed. Yes, he also brought his own stuffed animal.

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At our house, Mako always looked with longing out the front door to the street where he would see other dogs, but we couldn’t let him outside without attaching a leash and walking around with him, because he wasn’t used to the city.

At his home(s) he was completely free. He romped through the hills and forest, down to the dock and lake, in search of the sources of all the scents in his world. One time, he followed his nose to discover a girl-dog at a residence not too far from his property, and he outstayed the welcome of her owners on several occasions. And during the work week, Mako had his run of the workplace property too. He was used to running, sniffing, and rolling, but he was sure to be back when the workday was done for his ride home in his master’s truck.

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The dock and boathouse on a frozen Lake Muskoka. April 15th, 2018.

This year, old man winter would not relent, and the lake was still frozen on the surface well into April. On the evening of the 10th, Mako made his usual request to go outside for his constitutional, but he didn’t return. It was suspected that he was visiting his girl-dog, and that he would make his way back as always. The next morning, he still hadn’t shown up. Later into the morning hours, he was found a short distance from the dock. He had, for reasons unknown, fallen through the ice, and although he tried desperately, he couldn’t get out of the freezing water for all the broken, shifting ice. In the dead of night, no one heard a sound. The extended winter is to blame, and it isn’t welcome anymore! But Mako was, and always will be, sorely missed.

I’ve not had the pleasure to know that many special dogs, but he made me want another dog of my own! It has been a while for me. Maybe I will get my wish someday, but for now, we’re all missing this guy like no other!  

 

 

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About the Artist, and “Vine” Art

In an attempt to reduce the word count of my biography on my “About” pages, I am transferring this information to a blog post, and I think this is preferable. Not everybody wants to know this much about me (not until my memoir gets published anyway!).

About the artist, Michelle Vyn (pronounced Vine):

Hmm, does the little bit in brackets not say plenty? Not pronounced “vin,” as in vin-tage (I’m not quite there yet). I even had to get “punny” and call my “fine” art, “Vine” art. All this in hopes that my married surname will get pronounced the way I like to hear it. How hard can a 3-letter name be to pronounce anyway? It’s dutch, and it’s pronounced “vine” in the Netherlands, from “Vijn”, which branched off from “Fijn,” pronounced “fine.” So, Vine Art works just fine, I think.

Perhaps I was born an artist, or born-to-be-an-artist. Either way, I started very young, and before I was 5 years of age, I was drawing “perfect” circles. If I practiced every day, I didn’t realize it, because I was more than content with pencils, crayons, markers and modelling clay, at all times and everywhere. It is the smell of the art room that I remember best from all my years at elementary school.

Discovering the world through art has been a favourite pastime since those early days. I gave expression to this wonder by drawing subjects from nature (primary grades), pet portraits (junior grades), and eventually (in the teen years) by creating portraits of friends and family, as well as drawing for commissions. Unfortunately, I gave most of my completed drawings away.

I grew up in a small village outside of London, Ontario, and eventually expanded my horizons by moving to St. Thomas as an adult, which was not much farther from London. In St. Thomas, I got married, had 3 children (very close in ages), became a student on and off, and a teacher on and off. I’m a lifelong learner, so I will consider myself a student and a teacher for as long as I’m able. Art has been a life-long hobby, but I only started showing my work publicly in February of 2015.

Primarily self-taught at drawing and with a love for realism, I branched into working with other media while at university and discovered a love for many art styles from throughout history. I am still mainly self-taught; however, I have taken a few college and university studio art courses, as well as other workshops along the way. I also enjoy meeting and collaborating with other artists and I find satisfaction that in art there is always more to learn and more to express. My love for colour and texture is evident in my compositions, and my variety of life experience shows in the diversity of subject matter and influential styles I’ve been attracted to over the years. I have travelled the world, if only in my imagination (benefiting from the exposure of education), and the influence is there in my work.

In September of 2015, just after I was getting my work noticed in the London area, my husband accepted a job offer in the beautiful Muskoka area in the province of Ontario, Canada. To get our family established, I found a full-time job, but I joined Muskoka Arts & Crafts (our “guild”) and continued to seek out potential art shows to keep creating.

Currently, I live in Bracebridge, Ontario, which is said to be the “heart” of Muskoka. I am continually inspired by the endless beauty of the the nature that surrounds me.

I love to explore the bounds of creativity with acrylic paints and mediums, and I prefer to experiment with new techniques, which keeps others guessing and asking how I have created my finished pieces. At times, I also return to drawing, printmaking, mixed media creations, and many other artistic media.

 

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