Mixed media painting of row of trees
Learning by Example: Watercolor and Colored Pencil; 20” x 30”

I painted this to represent a day when I was fourteen and a friend’s father drove us to Cape Cod drunk. There were six adults involved and none of them stepped in to stop the day from unfolding. I learned a lot that day about ignoring danger and staying silent.

The Story Carved into the Paper

I wrote my first story into the paper this is painted on. I used a bamboo skewer to incise the words. The entire surface was covered. Then I wet the paper to prepare to paint the first layer. The painting is 20″ x 30″, so it took a lot of water. The fibers swelled and a lot of the words I had written disappeared. I had no idea if they would come back when it dried.

Elusiveness of Memory

Memory is a strange thing. As I reached back through the decades to remember the details of what happened on a particular day I found some parts seemed crystal clear. Others were very fuzzy. Focusing on trying to remember would often make it harder. Sometimes thinking about something else around that time would pop forward another piece of the puzzle.

At first I thought I could get more pieces from other family members. Sharing stories with them I found they wouldn’t remember the situations I was trying to recall. They didn’t doubt my stories, enough of the details were familiar, but they had their focus on other things at the time.

Layers of Story

When the first layer dried, many of the words were still gone. I hadn’t been able to fit all of the story on the first layer, so I just kept going and carved another layer of words. When I finished the story, I started over at the beginning. Alternating between layers of paint and words.

The words were subtle, but had interesting texture to them. I started drawing over the surface in places with colored pencil to bring more of the texture to the surface.

area of painting showing word texture
Detail of Learning by Example


This is just one of the pieces that will be shown at the Washington County Open Studio tour. October 19 and 20. 11AM – 5PM. I’d love to see you at 6443 NE Brighton St Hillsboro OR 97124.


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  1. Looking forward to seeing your work this weekend!

    • This next weekend— a week from now. This weekend you will see me sorting piles and making decisions 🙂

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