Trying, Keeping, Discarding

I’ve returned to watercolor in the past year, trying a lot of things, and realizing that some things are just not “me” and others are “me.”  This means there are styles of painting I just don’t care for – and ones I do – and what to do?

First, I think it is important to try something.  This way you gain a working knowledge.  This means repeat the situation a few times to learn the subtleties.  The brain works on an unconscious level and incorporates that knowledge.  Whether or not you continue down that path, you learn something and it is stored away somewhere in the mystery of the brain.

The painting above is a study I did out of Ted Kautzky’s classical work, Ways with Watercolor, which I bought when I was 16 with babysitting money.  Three colors only, and the variety of colors is amazing.  Restraint, self-control, forethought, execution, results, experience and knowledge.

And then, think about the experience.  Worthwhile?  Did you like it?  Were you a klutz?  Did you hate it?  Did you like it?  Do you want to move on?  My philosophy about work comes into play here:  learn what you hate about your job and what you love – then decide if you want to continue.  That applies to painting and art in general.  I like certain things and find other things not to my liking.

What I don’t like is a sense of constraint.  I like painting to be an experience – but to get good at something, you have to work.  So, I like free-flowing painterly watercolors.  To get there requires practice and experience.

When I was doing a lot of sumi-e, I hated the brushes and the paper – they had their own qualities which, one mistake, could ruin an attempt.  Eventually, though, I found some mastery over paper and ink and brush.  Part of that came from knowing my materials – which paper I liked, which brushes I liked, which ink and ink stone I liked.  Then I could begin mastery.  Poor quality brushes shed hairs; too-porous paper spread the ink to quickly.

The same is to be said for watercolor, which I have been drawn to since whenever.  However, I have scurried away from it, always annoyed with my style, with my lack of ability, with my lack of control.  I still deal with it today, but now that I am on the slippery slope of old age, such things seem like foolish wastes of my time.  Just do it!  Do it as often as possible!  To hell with the results – the experience itself leads to wherever it will lead.

Yes, I do know what I want to be able to produce.  I don’t want to rely on lines to contain a bad composition or execution of color.  If I do ink and watercolor, there will be a purpose for it – a reach for a particular style.  With watercolor, I may need to do (and will do) value studies and use a limited palette of colors to train my eye.  This is a form of restraint, but not an onerous one.



I was rummaging through the files on my desk, and came across a collection of sumi-e ink, ink and color, and watercolor or acrylic paintings I did a long time ago.  Some of these are “aceo” size, which measure 2×3.5 inches, and others are other papers.  I used to sell these on Ebay, too.  Maybe I need to go through and scan some more – it’s like tea and madeleines – memories and reminders.

Monoprinting Magic

In my dotage, I am working toward art in my life on a regular basis.  While I haven’t pulled out my ink brushes and done sumi-e in a while, I have pulled out the watercolor brushes.  And the other day, I went to a class on monoprinting, which I knew about in theory, but had never done nor seen.  In reading, monoprinting is essentially a painting turned into a print using a variety of techniques.  Different surfaces can be used upon which to place the paint, and then different papers or materials can receive it.  The way monoprinting can be done is endless.  To read more about monoprinting, here is the link to the Wikipedia explanation.

There were two things I needed to buy for this class, which came through a Meetup group near me.  I got a gelatin plate from Amazon, and a roller / brayer.  Instructions including a mandate to wear old clothes and prepare to get messy.  We did!  It took a few good scrubbings to clean my hands off . . .

So, plate in hand, and brayer, I showed up.  Before each person’s seat was a lovely package, not in brown paper, but it was tied up with string.  Inside were stencils and silhouettes of objects, and all sorts of weird things (methought), including Q-tips and wine corks, to name a few.  And paper.  And a big plastic menu cover, which was later used as a surface to hold the paint for the monoprint, as was the gelatin plate.  The hard plastic released the paint less readily than the gelatin plate, and as a result more prints could be made, but the paint transfer was not as rich.

To my mind, which tends to want total control, I was in a land of chaos.  I remember wandering between my prints, wondering what the heck to do, and befuddles and confused about the whole thing.  I know this is how my mind works.  I also know that as I progress in my knowledge and experience in doing things, order is created out of the seeming chaos, and that is when imagination and creativity can begin.  Practice leads to understanding of what it is I do, and how to do it, and opens doors along the pathway of experience.  The creative process is its own reality.

Monoprinting needs space, supplies, and imagination, and a willingness to let things happen.  One layer of the print can lead to another layer.  Each layer creates its own universe.  While you may have an idea about what you want to do – the final product – it is also a world that creates itself.  I enjoyed it, especially the creative potential of it.  Did I create works of art?  Hell no, but I had fun – and that is a great reinforcement for future playtime with the gel plate and roller.



Honey-Sweetened Cheesecake Recipe

Once more, dietary changes are forcing cooking and baking changes.  Some results are rather dreadful.  Others have proven to be quite good!  So it was with this cheesecake.  No sugar, no gluten.  The biggest problem was finding the dry curd cottage cheese. also known as hoop cheese or farmer’s cheese.  I found the cheese at the local Whole Foods, and neither my husband nor I had ever tasted it – but we did, and liked it.  It is a rather dry cheese, not sweet or salty, with a bit of a curd, but very fine, like ricotta.  The original recipe is from this blog, but I changed it so that I made one 8″ cheesecake, instead of 4 individual ones.  The only thing beside pan size that I changed was the baking time.

Honey Cheesecake

Preheat oven to 300 F, and by the time you have your crust ready, you can pop the crust in to bake.

1 1/2 c. almond flour
1 t cinnamon
3 T melted butter
1 t honey

Mix flour and cinnamon together. Melt butter, mix in honey. Stir together to form a soft dough. I used a fork to really work the ingredients together. Place the crust mixture into an 8″ spring form pan, lined on the bottom with parchment paper, and sides buttered. Working from the center out, press the dough onto the pan. Build a shallow edge along the rim of the pan. Bake for 15 minutes at 300 F. Remove and let cool completely.

When you are ready to make the filling, preheat oven to 350 F.

1 lb. farmer’s cheese
1/2 c. SCD homemade yogurt
3 eggs
1/3 c. honey
2 t vanilla extract
1 t lemon zest

In a blender or with a hand mixer, combine cheese and yogurt. Cream for about 5 minutes – texture will change and become more creamy as you work. Add the rest of the ingredients, and beat until very smooth. Batter will be very thin. Pour carefully into cooled crust. Bake at 350 F for 45-50 minutes. Check to see that the center of the cheese cake is set. When set (the cake no longer jiggles when shaken lightly), turn off oven and open door. Let cheese cake cool about an hour, and then move to refrigerator. Serve with fresh berries.

I had no idea what to expect from this recipe, but those who tasted it (served at a dinner party) really liked the flavor and lightness of the cheesecake. It wasn’t very sweet, which can happen with many honey-based recipes. The lemon zest complemented the fresh fruit – we used blueberries and raspberries. Without the fruit, the cheesecake might be a bit unremarkable if you are used to big, thick slices of New York cheesecake.

This, for us, is a definite winner!


Cauliflower Rice Risotto

I am not a big fan of cauliflower, but I adore a good risotto.  As we (the DH et moi) are changing our diet a bit, rice is off the menu (for now).  Truthfully, most “substitutes” for other foods made in a traditional manner really are not good, as far as we are concerned, but we were both pretty pleased with this recipe, made by yours truly.

One of the most off-putting about cauliflower rice risottos is that they are too wet.  Almost soggy.  And never are they any good as leftovers.  So, this recipe is good for 2 people as a side.  Let me know what you think!

Cauliflower Rice Risotto

1/2 stick of butter
8 oz. riced cauliflower (I used a half of a Trader Joe’s packet)
8 oz. mushrooms, sliced
1/4 medium onion, chopped fine
Romano or Parmesan cheese, grated
1/4 c. plain, whole milk yogurt
2-4 T. chicken stock

Ahead of time, fry up the mushrooms and onions in a very hot frying pan with the butter. Heat the pan first, put in the butter, and let it melt. When it begins to sizzle, add the mushrooms and chopped onion. Stir and flip the mushrooms and onions until the onions are rather browned. Continue to cook the mixture and let some of the liquor evaporate. Set aside in a small bowl until ready to use.

Add a small amount of butter back into the frying pan. Dump in the riced cauliflower and stir fry it, letting liquid evaporate. I used a rather high heat as I wanted to brown the cauliflower a bit. Stir constantly. When it is to your liking, return the mushroom-onion mixture to the pan.

Add a small amount of chicken broth to the pan, stirring everything together. Do not let the mixture become too wet, so it is better to slowly add the chicken broth. When you think it is ready, add the yogurt, and stir in thoroughly. (Yogurt? Yeah – it gives a slightly tart taste to the mixture, like white wine does to traditional risotto.) Again, let liquids evaporate. Add the Romano cheese (or Parmesan), and stir. Serve immediately; have extra grated cheese at the table for your dinner mates to add.   Add pepper to taste but be careful if you add salt – the cheese is salty enough for us.