Saturday, August 22, 2009

My First Publication in Somerset Digital Studio Magazine

A month's passed since my last post, because we've been having windows and doors replaced in the house, garage and back porch. (We still have a back porch, instead of a deck. Here in this suburban development, my husband and I live in a small "island" -- with our neighbors on the right and on the left, we comprise a three-houses-in-a-row unit wherein live couples over 60. All around us are under-60's -- who have decks. We over-60's have screened-in back porches. It's a generations thing!)
Yesterday I received my free copy of Somerset Digital Studio (Autumn 2009 issue.) Page 108 shows my digital art entitled Heart in Hand.
I'm reading Passing Strange, a fascinating true story and a real eye-opener. Has anyone else read it?

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Eyebrow Raising

(This was originally posted several months ago and is being re-posted as part of the Buried Treasure Collaboration, to be shared July 23, 2009. The photo on the left is my original photo of God's cloud-art at Raritan Bay, Sandy Hook National Park, New Jersey. On the right is my digital collage Heart in Hand II. Click to enlarge.)

When we keep our eyes open, we find that God sprinkles our paths with unexpected art materials...anywhere!

Several years ago, when I worked at TJH (The Job from Hell), I took a short daily walk as a mental health break. This walk took me past an alley behind a few shops, where shop owners used to leave discarded packing materials for the trash collectors. One day I saw a piece of packaging material, a honeycomb of brown heavyweight paper, mangled and weathered -- and I snatched it up before the "real" trash collectors could get there! Finally I'm using it in a piece of art and so far I'm happy with the way it's progressing.

This may be an embarrassing story for her, so I won't name my girlfriend; but one day she and I stopped at a curbside pile of discards outside the home of someone who had just recently cleaned house, probably in preparation for a move. Yes -- we actually went thru the mountain of trash. I got some lovely lace that had once been living room drapery, a million old CDs and a pile of composition books that anonymous schoolchildren had used for written exercises. I'm sure the neighbors were peeking out their windows, scratching their heads...especially since we were toting our newly found "treasures" to the trunk of my girlfriend's car, a shiny classy Lexus!

Photo opportunities await us, too, when we have eyes trained to notice them. We artists see things others don't. A few days ago I went to a playground in a local park and took close-up, angled photos of the playground equipment along with shadows it cast. The results are abstracts that will be used in several ways in my digital art. Nearby, toddlers played on the younger kids' equipment, while their parents sat on benches and looked at me from under squiggled eyebrows. I went about my business with a contented smile, happily paying them no mind.

This approach to others' eyebrow maneuvers is, for me, an acquired skill. I've grown a thicker skin since the day, a few years ago, when I went on a chartered bus trip to the Bronx Botantical Gardens with the ladies' group from church. I'll never forget my excitement, on that trip, when on a guided greenhouse tour, I noticed an exotic tree with a wild tangle of dreadlock-like roots, sprawling at the base of the tree. I knelt down and took a stream of close-ups, fascinated by the patterns and texture spread out before me. Done taking pictures, I got back up to my feet, turned -- and came face-to-face with a circle of women taking me in, all of them with a mile's distance between their lower lips and their eyebrows.

Like other artists, I see treasure in trash piles and, in a tangle of roots, a background for digital art or a custom-made Photoshop grunge brush. At a playground, I see a dancefloor for a fairy still waiting to be born on my Photoshop work-page.

A warm hug to my fellow artists,

Friday, June 26, 2009

new artwork posted on website

I'm an Associate Member of a local artists' guild, and have finally gotten around to posting ten of my artworks on their website. Here is the address:

While at the guild's website, you may also enjoy checking out this Exhibiting Artist: Jean Hutter. She is the artist I want to be "when I grow up!" I'm in awe of her work, and I wish more of it were shown on this website.


underwater scene greeting cards

Here are 4 greeting cards I made to sell through a local giftshop. Making cards of this kind was a relaxing break -- they're quick, easy and fun. You can click on any image to enlarge it.

monoprinting underwater backgrounds

This photo sequence shows how I made the monoprints that I used in creating the underwater-scene greeting cards. I also used a monoprint of this kind in creating a large piece of art for Crafters Cafe, which can be seen at
My first step was to smear paint blobs onto a matrix, which in this case was a sheet of glass. Second, I placed my substrate (the glossy cardstock to be printed) face-down onto the matrix and gave it a slight twist. Then I pulled it up; the third photo shows the matrix and substrate side-by-side. The last photo shows a close-up of one of my prints.
This technique is lots of fun; every pull yields a surprise. And it's a perfect activity to share with young children out of school for the summer!

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Art Show Opening -- the Afterglow

Yesterday my good friend Mary Ann and I had our opening for a joint art show we titled Texture Mania -- because we both celebrate texture in our art-making.

Mary Ann's display covers two walls, and my art takes the other two. It was a huge job preparing all the artwork, as well as a lot of portfolio pieces; but we felt it well worthwhile yesterday, when the large display room (at a local cultural center) filled with family, friends and strangers-to-become friends who came in response to the PR I had spread around for weeks in advance.

The refreshments were fantastic -- I think I've attended weddings that offered less food and drink! The refreshments were supplied by Mary Ann and the wife of the Pennsylvania photographer who shared our opening since his photos were newly hung in the cultural center's smaller display room.

That's our division of labor -- refreshments are always handled by Mary Ann (former Earth Mother and current competition for Martha Stewart as Queen of All Things Homey); and PR is always handled by moi; since, before Artist Cecilia was born, Writer Cecilia spent years writing for one of the two major Detroit-area newspapers, when I was still a Michigander. Before and after those years, my short stories, articles and poetry were published in a wide range of magazines and other periodicals. With that background -- and considering the fact that I step into my own kitchen as seldom as legally possible -- naturally the job of PR is mine.

The photos I took of our show aren't the best, but I've posted them at the top of this entry, to add some imagery to my words. You can click on each photo to enlarge the image.

The first three photos of artwork are my art, and the following five are Mary Ann's. Her African-themed art-quilts were made to honor the beaders of Bead for Life, a non-profit organization that helps impoverished Ugandan women and children. Mary Ann incorporated some of the Bead for Life beads on her quilts; I incorporated them in some of my mixed-media pieces.


Saturday, June 13, 2009

Ties that Bind

This worthwhile project, Ties that Bind, is raising money to contribute toward the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund.


Monday, June 8, 2009

Saturday's collage workshop

Saturday, I had the pleasure of taking an all-day workshop facilitated by Helen Harris. Her wonderful artwork can be seen at these addresses:

Thank you, Helen, for a fantastic workshop!


Friday, May 29, 2009


This week's email brought me two pieces of good news: One of my digital artworks will be published in the Summer 2009 Somerset Digital Studio magazine.

More exciting still, I'm now on the design team at Crafter's Cafe, an on-line art supply enterprise run by one terrific woman, Sue Farace. Besides shopping, you can also take classes thru her website: I'm looking forward to the adventure of artmaking with the fine line of products available at Crafter's Cafe -- a line of products being newly expanded, so visit Sue's website often to keep up with the additions!

My CD of vintage clipart is available here on my blog, by clicking on the "Buy Now" button at the bottom of this message. The cost is $20, which covers postage. This second CD includes 11 "pages" of digital kit elements; their transparent backgrounds make them easily combined with one another and with your own imagery, for scrapbooking, altered art, etc. To view the contents of the second CD, scroll to the bottom of this blog page.

I want to thank my good friend Mary Ann for some of the vintage photos that are free giveaways in the left column of this blog. More of Mary Ann's beautiful vintage photos and epherma will appear on my next CD.


Thursday, April 16, 2009


Welcome to my newly re-styled blog!
This is the kind of spring cleaning I can tolerate -- coming up with a new look for my blog.  The three columns in my newly designed blog were created by Karen Watson, who also does other services and who provides free blog backgrounds:
Thank you, Karen!

Friday, April 3, 2009

Hearts in Touch Designer of the Month

As the April Designer of the Month for Hearts in Touch Rubber Stamps (, I've completed several projects that use the #57 Double Fems sheet of unmounted stamps.

One of the reasons I prefer unmounted stamps is that a sheet of them can be used as a printing plate. And that's what I did in creating Women Rock.

With the rubber sheet face-up on my work table, I applied ink with an inverted stamp pad, then placed the receiving paper atop the rubber sheet. I burnished from the top, using a brayer.

Next, I carefully peeled off the receiving paper, now printed with multiple images. I repeated this process several times, using different papers.

One of the papers I used was a print-out from my CD of clipart (available by using the Pay Pal button at the end of this post); the image is a sheet of burlap with unraveled edges. The print came out so well that I chose it for background on the right side of the cigar box.

I papered the left side of the cigar box with another HIT-printed sheet. I supplemented the images with some clipart from my CD.

My embellishment elements came from a wide range of sources:

Having bought a dollar-store set of doll clothes for my granddaughter, I gave her the doll clothes but kept the molded black plastic female form for this projet. I sanded it and dry-brushed it with several acrylic paints before mounting it on a wooden element found at a rummage sale.

Behind the female form is a marble tile sample given to me by a friend. I used a gold metallic pen to outline the designs in the tile, then mounted it to the cigar box.

The wooden block (“Women”) came from a game purchased at a thrift shop; the greenery, now pressed and dried, originally came from a bouquet my daughter received. The wonderful black beads came from Oriental Trading Company (also known as “the big dollar store in cyberspace.”)

Now to go looking for more cigar boxes...!


Tuesday, February 24, 2009

foam plate-printing: a creative adventure

What stamps like a hand-carved rubber stamp yet is so flat that, if you want, you can run it through a pasta machine? The answer may be sitting in your refrigerator, under that sliced smoked turkey from the deli. (Yum! Save me a slice!)
You may be new to foam-plate printing, or you may have been introduced to it or its cousin (potato-printing) as a child. For me, the doorway to this creative adventure was Annette W. Mitchell’s quick-read book, Foam Is Where the Art Is, which I found and bought on-line.

foam disposable deli trays
scissors to cut off the curved edges, leaving flat sheets of foam
paper towels or rags for finger-cleaning between prints
rubber brayer
a dollar-store plastic cutting board with a somewhat rough surface
Speedball Water Soluble Block Printing Ink in assorted colors
Speedball Water Soluble Ink Extender
a tall stack of scrap papereither a pasta machine or a burnishing tool paper on which to print (sturdy paper like cardstock is ideal)
ballpoint pen
Versa Magic or StazOn ink pad (any other dark color)
a rubber stamp
a Dover book of copyright-free clipart
additional “carving” tools, such as an awl

After cutting off the curved edges of the foam trays, I usually trim the foam plate to a width around 3 inches and a length of roughly 4 inches. This size fits the cover of a greeting card (the traditional size that comes ready-to-use.) Also, it’s the size that will easily pass through the pasta machine, if that’s the tool I plan to use in printmaking.
I’ve created foam-plate designs in 3 ways:
(1.) freehand-drawing directly onto the foam plate.
(2.) making a carbon copy transfer from a Dover book of copyright-free clipart.
(3.) using a rubber stamp (lacking fine detail in its design) with an inkpad containing ink that adheres to any surface Whatever the source of my design, I most often do the “carving” with a ballpoint pen. A pen makes thin lines, which is what I usually want. For a thicker line I use an awl; for really thick, a cocktail stir-stick. To jazz things up, I use all three on one plate -- along with the tongs of a fork or any other tools that leave interesting shapes and textures.
I cover my art table with scrap paper and keep a stack of more scrap paper within reach.
Onto the cutting board, I squeeze small dollops of my chosen colors from tubes of Speedball ink. I often add a little Speedball extender, to give the ink translucency and to keep it moist.
I roll-mix these dollops on the cutting board with my rubber brayer, then continue rolling it back and forth across the board, until I’ve got the right amount of ink coating the roller. When first learning this technique, I experimented with practice prints on scrap paper, to learn what amount of ink on the brayer works best for me.
With my carved foam plate lying face-up on my art table, I roll the inked brayer across the carved design. I use a brayer wide enough to cover the design in one stroke.
Keeping the foam plate face-up, I lightly press my print-paper down onto it. My print paper is usually just a little larger than the foam plate, but small enough to move through the pasta machine.
Next I grab a piece of scrap paper and use it as the “bread” in a “sandwich,” wrapping it around the print paper that’s pressed to the foam plate. This step keeps ink from going places it shouldn’t go!

At this point the sandwich is ready for me to run it through the pasta machine or to use the burnishing tool.I set the pasta machine on its widest setting if my foam plate has come from a deli tray. If using the thinner foam that’s cut from a disposable dinner plate, I either narrow the setting on the pasta machine or add a piece of cardboard to the “sandwich.” As I pass the sandwich through the pasta machine, I use one hand to guide the end that emerges.
If I choose to use a burnishing tool in place of a pasta machine, I keep the sandwich on the art table, securing its position with one hand and using the other hand to run a baren or other burnisher across the sandwich.
Barens and burnishers are available in fine arts supply stores, but I use a homemade baren: I used E6000 to glue together the flat sides of two wooden drawer knobs (from a home improvement store.) This double-knob is a baren on one end and a handle on the other, and the two are interchangeable.
In a pinch, the back of a large serving spoon will do the trick.

The baren printmaking method takes a little longer than the pasta machine method, but either way, the printing is quick and easy.
After the printmaking step, I unwrap the “sandwich,” discard the scrap paper “bread,” and gently peel the print-paper off the foam plate.
Right away, I stick my tools under the faucet to wash them. Speedball blockprinting ink comes off easily with water and paper towels.
Prints dry fast, and are soon ready to be used in collage.

NOTE: Although I used Speedball ink and extender in making prints for the pictured collage (Three Pears), I want to mention the trouble I had in gluing my prints onto the collage. Speedball water-based inks will rehydrate when introduced, however gently, to any kind of moist gluing medium. This happens even after the prints have been sprayed with fixative. So, the next time I do any foam-plate printing, I plan to use acrylic paint and slow-drying gel as my extender. Working this way will require better ventilation than when I was working with the water-based media. But the results won't rehydrate later, when being used with glue in collage-making.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Here by Grace

(My beloved Kitty, a gift of love for 20 years.)

(Puma, here by grace.)
Puma is my six-year-old cat. I brought her home from an animal shelter late last April.
She is here, living the life of Riley, by grace. Although she has moments of being the cat I would most like her to be, the rock-bottom of it is that she carries "baggage" from her five and a half years with two previous owners, not to mention her subsequent time in the animal shelter.
She has done nothing to earn her present good circumstances. Puma is here now because once Kitty was here.
My beloved Kitty died the Saturday after Easter last year, after having been part of my life, and my daughter's, for nearly twenty years.
My daughter and I got Kitty when she was a kitten. We answered an ad from a family giving her away because their young son, who adored her, had developed severe allergies. I'll never forget the look on the little boy's face when he had to say goodbye to Kitty.
Kitty seamlessly became part of our family, a warm and calm presence in a home that I held together. When after many years I realized I could no longer hold it together, she and my daughter and I became a new, smaller family. Later still, Kitty accompanied my daughter and me in forming a new family, at my re-marriage.
I'm sad to say that for many of those years, I took Kitty for granted; having been my daughter's seven-year-old birthday gift, she belonged to my daughter.
Kitty became mine when my daughter left, first for college, then for an apartment where pets weren't welcome. It was then that I began to realize -- but only began to realize -- what a gift Kitty was, in her unfailing affection. Kitty was love, personified. Or if you prefer, feline-ified.
There is no lack of love between my daughter and I, nor any lack in love between my husband and I, so it's hard to explain, even to myself, why Kitty's affectionate nature began to matter so much to me. I only know that it did.
This became painfully evident when suddenly, last Good Friday, she stopped eating. It was the longest week of my life. Because of my daughter's work schedule, she could not come with me and Kitty for that last visit to the vet until the following Saturday morning; and because my daughter and Kitty had grown up together, strongly bonded, there was no question if my taking Kitty to the vet without her.
My husband drove us to the vet, while in the back seat my daughter and I stroked Kitty, lying in her favorite basket.
While the three of us were still in the waiting room, I sensed that Kitty had already passed. This was confirmed when we were taken in to the vet's examining room.
We had a beautiful little funeral in our backyard, complete with prayers from a book my sister had given me, and fresh flowers.
I had known all along Kitty's time was coming; I had never expected to get another cat.
It was a tidal wave: The grief that followed the loss of that sweet loving little pet. I had expected sadness; what I got was quite a bit more than that.
Eventually it was decided I would take in another cat. I knew it would not be possible to replace Kitty; I was proven right.
I've learned to accept Puma for what she is -- to appreciate her intelligence, beauty and manic bursts of playfulness; and to allow her to "train me" as all cats do with their "owners."
I enjoy having her in my life. I treat her very well; she lives like the queen she believes herself to be.
Yet it remains a fact ... just something I'm mulling over, today ... that the good life into which she has been delivered has been won not by anything she herself is, nor by anything she has ever done. It's a free gift. She is here not because of her own goodness, but because of Kitty's. Kitty, who embodied love.
Puma is here by grace. As am I.
What I learned from Kitty: All life is sacred; all love is holy.

My deadlines for the Monmouth Festival of the Arts loom ... but I've caught a head cold.

One of the last things I did before getting sick was to check out a library book -- A Garden to Keep by Jamie Langston Turner.

Digging into this novel last night, I unearthed a treasure. Out of respect for copyright, I won't quote any part of it ... but let me say I love the way this passage addresses the subject of artistic freedom.

For anyone else interested in checking out this book, I will say this: The scene I'm citing launches with the first new paragraph on page 174 and glides to a landing with a gentle satisfying sigh at the bottom of page 175.


God bless me!


Saturday, January 31, 2009

I'm delighted to be a small part of the thriving community of artists virtually congregating on the Internet, sharing ideas and setting off creative sparks. I feel especially indebted to the Yahoo Mail Group The Latest Trends in Mixed-Media Art , whose team of moderators I sincerely thank for accepting artwork of mine for inclusion with other artists' work in a book to be published later this year and to be available via Amazon as well as other outlets. Updates and details on this will follow in later posts.

Anyone interested in joining an active group with a warm personality and a wide range of interests and activities, check out the link I'm providing!

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Grandma Again!

Last Saturday I gained a new man in my life -- my newest grandchild, Chonza Jr., aged five months and freshly arrived from the west coast of Canada.

Although Christmas is now a memory, meeting Chonza Jr. brings to mind a Christmas poem I wrote several years ago:


My Christmas colors are
hectic pink

In my New Jersey living room
'round an angel-topped spruce
God's palette.

Our ancestors
celebrated Christmas in
South Korea
the Philippines

Across artificial borders
we've reached
to adopt
to marry
making family.

God pours through us
His light

(copyright 2008 Cecilia Swatton with all rights reserved.)

Notice in this photo I wear beaded bracelets. These are made by Ugandan women whose dire financial circumstances place our own economic troubles into sharp perspective. Please take a moment to visit the Bead for Life website highlighted here on my blog. For gift-giving occasions, Bead for Life has something you can give with a warm heart, knowing it's a double gift, a personal adornment as well as a way of helping others. Or if you are an artist working in mixed media, beading arts, fiber arts or altered arts, you will be delighted with Bead for Life's packages of loose beads. These beads are lightweight -- being handmade one at a time from recycled magazine pages -- and come in all shades and colors.

In addition to Chonza Jr., God recently bestowed another blessing upon these sixty-year-old (slightly achy) shoulders. Jurors accepted my artwork into three categories at the 2009 Monmouth Festival of the Arts, an annual gallery-event happening in late March. The festival, held at Reform Temple in Tinton Falls, NJ, draws work from fine-arts artists across the tri-state area of NJ, NY and PA. My categories of acceptance are fine arts (for my mixed-media abstracts done on gallery-wrap canvas), fine crafts (for my Victorian-themed altered trays and cigar boxes) and photography (for my digital art.) At this point in time not every vendor offers separate categories for the two distinct, widely different artforms of fine-art photography and digital art; however, I remain hopeful that the tide of change will someday reach everywhere. I'm delighted at this acceptance into the Monmouth Festival of the Arts, in part because every year without fail, the Temple's MFA volunteers are polite, helpful and seemingly tireless in bringing about this huge event. And this show is well-organized. Any artist who's participated in a number of shows knows what a gigantic blessing this is!

I will be doing my best to grow a second set of hands in order to create my quota of artwork for this show, so I will not be a daily blogger. However, I hope everyone will take a moment to visit the Monmouth Festival of Arts website highlighted on this blog.

God's blessings upon you all!