Madonna’s Day

The Christmas of 2015 I was inspired by the traditional images of the Virgin and Child to create my own series of Madonna pictures. I saw this most sacred image of the Divine Feminine as present in all women of all ages and all places and all times and all circumstances of life. In total, I created 50 pictures.

This year I have decided to display most of them as a digital gallery in movie format. As you will see my pictorial representation is not sophisticated, but leans towards the childish in artistic terms. But each of these girl/woman images speaks to me in her own unique voice.

In honor of Mother’s Day, I am presenting the Madonna Mandalas to honor the Mother present in every woman.  (I am also posting this on my Marie Taylor, Ink blog.)  Here is the link to You Tube:


Second Quarter Arrives

Several times since the beginning of the year, I sat down and started to write a post to update the art activities. Wait a moment – that’s not quite true. I didn’t really sit down; I was more leaning back in my chair with my feet on the desk and pondering. And I really didn’t start to write, I started to think about writing. Well, several odds and ends have accumulated and a nascent guilt complex has shown its head.

Every six months or so I usually hit some kind of wall in my art making. I either believe I’ve nothing more to say/show, or even if I keep creating I feel like I’m repeating myself. Real breakthroughs, epiphanies, are not that reliable or predictable. So I often find myself just slogging through until something gives.

Last summer, I kick-started my stall by changing to a different/better medium and started working with thick illustration board. The improved depth of color and texture was enough to keep me inspired for several months.

Then I changed the tempo by working with different dimensions (of board, not reality, unfortunately) and created mandalas of 10 x 10, 15 x 15 and 20 x 20 inch formats. This also kept me interested for a while. Most recently, I’ve gone the other direction and made some 5 x 5 and 7.5 x 7.5 inch mandalas. These babies also offered some new challenges, specifically of delicacy and precision.

Meanwhile, I’m going to sell some of the mandalas in a massage/Reiki school and am looking for other outlets in which other differently wired people gather. A lot of my motivation for this is I just want to get these mandalas out and make room for new ones.

Now I’m back to a stalled position in art making but I’ve been busy with teaching. I’m still offering classes at a Sacramento senior center and in May we’ll be having a little art show of the students’ work. May will also be the beginning of teaching a four-part workshop at Colonial Heights Library.

In addition, I’m developing an art appreciation/experimental class that may or may not work out. My idea was to showcase an artist who had a distinctive style or approach, offer some educational background on his life and then do an open studio thing in which we tried to draw/paint/etc. in that style. Our initial artist will be Georgia O’Keeffe, then Mondrian and Pollock. The first class will be in June.

Now that the torrential rains of winter are mostly over and summer’s sunny skies just around the corner, I’m thinking I might go back and do some ink wash painting for a change of pace. I put down my brushes nearly two years ago and will probably have to relearn everything – which might be a good thing. I am not the person today that I was two years ago. I’ll see things differently now.

That’s it for a while. Here’s a famous quote to end the post:
“The object isn’t to make art; it’s to be in that wonderful state which makes art inevitable.” Robert Henri

New Season, New Look

Fall is almost here and in keeping with the coming changes I’ve update the look and design of this website. I think it is more readable now and easier to navigate with just three buttons – the artist, ink wash and mandala art.

The mandalas show above are the latest I’ve designed – the major new aspect is that these are much bigger – instead of the 8 x 8 or 10 x 10 format these are either 15″ square or 20″ square. It makes a difference in design parameters and opens the imagination to new ideas.

I’ve been approached by a new senior center to teach mandala art and I’ll make an announcement as soon as it is finalized. In addition, I’ve gotten the go ahead to head a workshop after the first of the year I’ve titled, “Exploring Aging as a Spiritual Journey.” As an active traveler, I am very excited about this topic.

Teaching Mandala Art

For the last year I have been teaching Mandala Art at a local senior center. My ‘students’ range from 55 to over 80 years of age and all but a few are women. The majority have never had any art training and many were reluctant to even sign up believing they had no talent for this kind of thing.

Within a few weeks they are drawing simple geometric mandalas and in a few months are creating complex designs and color palettes accented by freehand drawing. They are amazed and delighted as they discover they are indeed artists and have a great capacity for creativity. As their confidence grows, so does their daring and experimentation.

What I am most proud of in my students is their willingness to try something new, to try something they see as challenging. The other thing I find most admirable is their unqualified support for each other. There is no criticism of another’s efforts, no competition except with oneself; instead I see kindness and encouragement for all the members.

Here are some of the guidelines I give them about designing and coloring mandalas:

  1. When designing a mandala first set the basic structure or underlying grid before adding circles, ellipses, or secondary lines.
  1. It doesn’t matter whether you design a mandala from the outside in, or the inside out.
  1. To break preconceived ideas, close your eyes and pick a color to use. Or, pick a color and then blindly pick a shape to color.
  1. Use a color on the outer levels and then repeat the color on the inside. One shape should be big(ger) and one small. This repetition of color will cause the eye to move in and out of the mandala design.
  1. Use both hot and cool colors but have one predominate.
  1. White is a color and helps to give ‘space’ to other colors.
  1. There is no such thing as an ugly color.
  1. If you have trouble choosing colors, start with the smallest shapes first.
  1. Hot colors and vivid/dark colors are dominant. Light and pastel colors recede.
  1. When in doubt, use a lighter shade of a color first. You can always go darker; you cannot go lighter.
  1. Use the color black at the end of the coloring and use it to accent or correct the design.
  1. After the mandala is completed, go over all design lines in black. Use varying thicknesses of line.
  1. There is no such thing as a mistake; there is an opportunity to go into a new direction.

“A GREAT PAINTER will know a great deal about how he did it, but still he will say, “How did I do it?” The real artist’s work is a surprise to himself.” 

Robert Henri, The Art Spirit

A few examples of my current work:

New Mandala Designs

I have revisited geometric mandala design and taken it in another direction. The new designs seem to have a Moorish or Indian influence, incorporating a lot more detail and ornamentation. I am also now using illustration board rather than Bristol paper and I really like the added tooth – it seems to really grab the color and deepen it.

I have knee replacement surgery set for early May and will be using part of the downtime to combine and revamp my websites. I will keep Marie Taylor Ink but eliminate the Marie Taylor Art and Sacred Gate sites. I will also be streamlining Ink and removing a lot of the old stuff. I’ll post again this summer. 🙂

Here’s a few examples of the new look.


A New Year

January is sort of an in-between month – by that I mean we are still winding up unfinished business from 2013 and at the same time trying to remember we are now beginning a new year. For several months I will have to consciously remind myself to write 2014 on my checks (am I the only person who still writes checks rather than use the bill paying option through the bank?)

After several months of ‘marketing’ art rather than making it, I am looking forward to getting a new supply of rice paper and losing myself in ink for a while. I was in four art show at the end of the year and have some work on exhibition this month at a local gallery. I sold several pieces for which I am grateful. In all cases the works that sold were on the small side and priced under $150; in addition, they tended to be representational rather than abstract – important information to consider for 2014.

At the gallery where I currently have some pieces there is also another artist who is showing ink work. I liked her art which is large: 3 x 5 and 4 x 6 feet – all framed and under glass. The prices ranged from $800 to $2,000.  The framing costs alone probably ran at least $150+, not to mention the 40% commission the gallery will take from any sale.

I heard one man come up to her at the opening and tell her he had curated many shows and her work was outstanding. But he didn’t buy anything. Tonight is Second Saturday in Sacramento when hundreds of people will go from gallery to gallery to see what’s on show this month. These are usually lookers not buyers; the art walk is a free source of entertainment.

When people want to hear music they pay for tickets or have a cover charge. Musicians don’t play for free. But somehow that doesn’t apply to art. Artists create it, pay for supplies, get it ready for exhibition and if a piece sells pay a big commission to the gallery. And if it doesn’t sell, which happens most of the time, have to decide if they want to recycle the art or store it.

I was talking to another young artist the other night who, of course, has a day job in advertising design and paints at night and on the weekends. He has several large (3 x 5) oil paintings on display which I doubt will sell (at least in this market) and I wondered, although I didn’t ask, what he intends to do with all these canvases when the show is over.

I was reading a Call for Artists for another local show that I found interesting and include it here:

Historically, art has been a topic of interest for many diverse groups of people. In order to achieve acclaim, the struggling artist must first satisfy the desires of just one group: those who will pay for and exhibit art. Overcoming this hurdle is certainly one of the most formative experiences of any new artist’s career. For this reason, artists who operate outside of this paradigm rarely, if ever, receive the opportunity to exhibit their art in a museum. Even when a museum chooses to do an exhibition highlighting the art of an unheard voice, it is still a voice picked by the museum for the entertainment of its donors.

The message goes on to say this show will be different in that the public will be asked to vote on the best picture of the show and the artist will then have a two week private exhibition later in the year.

If you’ve ever watched any of the art documentaries on PBS or similar channels you see stories about artists who have made it to the big time. These are artists with warehouse-sized studios, exhibitions in Paris, London, Rome, NYC and Tokyo, and whose work sells for five and six figures. But these are the exceptions, not the rule. Just as there are only so many superstars in music or movies, there are just so many artists who move in those rarified circles. For every star who gets discovered, there are probably hundreds (if not more) of equally talented ones whose names will remain unknown. I guess that’s why art always has it patrons – whether it is a Renaissance Pope, wealthy burgermeister, or Wall Street financier.

So in looking to the new year, I am thinking I will focus on one line of small, representational pieces that might sell, and on a second line of large formats that probably won’t find a buyer but which I will enjoy doing. In both cases, I will put my emphasis on making/doing/being and let the marketing take care of itself – or not.

Check out another post on Creativity and Spirituality at


An_Artist_at_his_EaselEvery once in a while I pick up some art books at the library to get a new perspective or ideas about painting. It’s not necessarily a book on ink wash or oriental art; it might be a how-to book, a survey of an artist or art period, one on techniques or on mediums. I picked up a good one the other day – “The Watercolorist’s Essential Notebook: Landscapes” by Gordon MacKenzie.

Ink wash and watercolors are similar in many ways although rice paper and watercolor paper are two different animals. MacKenzie’s book has lots of good information and tips on techniques that I can adapt to ink wash work but it was his comments on composition of a painting that hit just the right note with me today. He said: “Art is ‘me’ made visible. Growing from painter to artist is about honoring the child of the universe within who just wants to play.”

How true is that! Within my Box of Treasures that I will grab if the house ever catches on fire are two pictures. The first is of a zebra in finger paints done by my son Rob when he was about 5. The minimalist work shows a series of black lines only – no outline – suggesting a ‘horse-like’ body and head. How perceptive, for what is the most noticeable about a zebra if not its stripes.

The second was painted by my granddaughter Catherine at kindergarten and is a series of colorful ‘blobs’ swimming in a white sea. I think it is supposed to be tropical fish. It makes me happy just watching them swim.

Do you remember art class as a child? Part of the reason it was so much fun was because we never made a bad picture.

MacKenzie writes about our internal artistic dialogue…

“But I might make a mistake.”

“So what? You are probably the only one who knows or even cares. Do you really think that others are concerned with what you do on your pieces of paper? They’ve got their own pieces of paper to worry about. As for the critics who don’t even try- learning to ignore them is the kindest thing you can do for them.

Meanwhile, try to remember this:

  • You have always known how to compose pictures.
  • You did it as a child and you never forgot.
  • What you have lost is the memory and nerve to follow your instincts when making a picture.
  • What you have temporarily forgotten is how to play.
  • What you grew instead was an ego that demanded protection from embarrassment at all costs.

But it is time to take back command, responsibility and freedom for your compositions – because no one else will.”

Picasso said something similar about art and children when he said: Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up.

This is a good time to remind ourselves why we are creative. It is not to make money which is unlikely at best, and certainly not to be famous which requires a lot of good karma in addition to talent, or even to express our individuality in our journey of self-discovery. We are creative because it is fun – and because it is a lot more painful not to do it.

When my daughter was about seven years old, she asked me one day what I did at work. I told her I worked at the college – that my job was to teach people how to draw. She stared at me, incredulous, and said, “You mean they forgot?”         Howard Ikemoto


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