Monday, September 5, 2016

The Healing Art of Nature

Nature Bound, small collage by Donna Watson

Recently, some Japanese researchers set out to discover whether something special... and clinically therapeutic... happens when people spend time in nature.  In the early 1980"s the Forest Agency of Japan advised people to take a stroll in the woods for better health.  This practice was called forest bathing, or shinrin-yoku... and it was believed to lower stress.  Since then, a large body of evidence has shown that spending time in nature causes beneficial changes in the body.

I live on a cliff over looking a large body of water... and there are wooded trails around my home that lead down to the beach down below.  I also have created beautiful Japanese gardens that surround my home.

Studies have found that the quiet atmosphere, beautiful scenery, good smells and fresh, clean air in forests all contribute to lower stress, lower anxiety, and help symptoms like depression, heart disease and even cancer.

This is part of my moss garden...  there is a circular path around this moss garden where one can walk and meditate.  Plants and trees release compounds that protect them from pests; when humans inhale those compounds, it promotes healthy -- and measurable-- biological changes.

When I walk through my woods around my home, I love to forage and collect moss covered sticks,
fallen leaves, weathered wood, lichen...  and take to my greenhouse (Zen House).  This is where I also keep my fossil collection, rock collection, driftwood collection, bird nest collection....  and small bonsai collection.
Inside my Zen House

This is where I keep my moss covered sticks with a small bird's nest and ferns.  Research has shown that bringing bits of nature inside can also be very beneficial... even a plant in your room or just looking at trees through a window.

Here are some ferns with my crystal rock collection.

I planted bee balm in my herb garden this year, not realizing I would get these beautiful flowers.
Jizo, the protector of women, children and travelers

"The way we see the world shapes the way we treat it.  If a mountain is a deity, not a pile of ore; if a river is one of the veins of the land, not potential irrigation water; if a forest is a sacred grove, not timber; if other species are our biological kin, not resources; or if the planet is our mother, not an opportunity -- then we will treat each one with greater respect.  That is the challenge, to look at the world from a different perspective."  David Suzuki

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Cold Wax Book

CADENCE, by Donna Watson, cold wax and oil paints with collage

There is a new book waiting to be published written by artists and authors Rebecca Crowell and Jerry McLaughlin.  The book is over 300 pages and features over 100 artists from around the world.  I will also have some paintings featured in the book.  The title of the book is COLD WAX MEDIUM:  Techniques, Concepts and Conversations.  The book is more than just a technical guide.  It also provides comprehensive information for those new to cold wax mixed with oil paints, as well as technical expertise and inspiration to those with experience with the medium.

Rebecca Crowell is an international known artist and workshop instructor working and teaching 
in cold wax medium with oil paints.  She has traveled all over the world teaching her workshops.
You can find her website here  and her wonderful blog is here .

Rebecca Crowell, cold wax and oil painting 

Jerry McLaughlin art works have been widely exhibited.  He focuses his major energies in painting,
teaching and writing.  You can find his website here. 

Jerry McLaughlin, cold wax and oil painting

Because the book became 300 pages long and in order to keep the quality high...  to be able to order a full print run there is a crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo.  Contributors will receive several perks, including workshops and copies of the book.  To contribute go to the website and find out how.  Once you go to this website you will immediately find yourself at Indigogo... with much more information.

This book features nearly 100 artists from around the world as well and Rebecca's and Jerry's knowledge and experience with the cold wax medium.  This book will strengthen your work and studio practice, suggest new directions and support thoughtful critique and inspiration.  

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Storytelling with Collage

Enso, collage by Donna Watson, hand painted Japanese washi papers

     July 9-10:  2 Day workshop:  Wabi Sabi and the Spirit of Collage in Mendocino CA at the Mendocino Art Center.  For more information go to:

     July 25-27:  3 Day workshop:  Personal Expression:  A Design Approach to Mixed Media at the Peninsula School of Art in Fish Creek, Wisconsin.  For more information go to: 

     August 8-9:  2 day workshop:  Wabi Sabi and the Spirit of Collage in Phoenix Arizona at the Art Unraveled venue.  For more information go to: 

BOOK ANNOUNCEMENT:  I have had the honor of an invitation to be included in the book:  (The collage above ENSO is the collage included in the book.)

by Roxanne Evans Stout

Techniques for Layering COLOR & TEXTURE

Every collage has a story to tell.  Tell your story in paper, fabric, and ephemera collected from your world.  This book written by Roxanne will demonstrate and inspire all of us to capture our thoughts, memories and daydreams.  She showcases tools and supplies needed to express your memories.
The book is filled with collage challenges and suggestions.  It is also filled with a number of other collage artists, their thoughts and collages, as well as Roxanne's own work.  In other words there are lots of images to look at and get inspired.  For more information about Roxanne and her book go to her blog here.  

These are some of my collage papers and inspirations for my collages.  Old Japanese books.... old letters from the Kyoto flea markets.

Create beauty.
Value Imperfection.
Live deeply.

Monday, June 6, 2016

Wabi Sabi Hare

Collage by Donna Watson

Wabi Sabi is the Japanese aesthetic of finding beauty in imperfection,  incompleteness and impermanence.  It is a beauty of things modest and humble.  It is a beauty of things rustic, simple, organic, worn, weathered... things affected by the passage of time.  It is also about the cycle of life and our connection to nature.  It is an appreciation of nature and all life.  This is how I view the rabbit.  A quiet, still, silent, gentle, harmless (unless you have a vegetable garden) creature.

THE HARE WITH THE AMBER EYES is written by Edmund De Waal, a world famous ceramist working in Porcelain.  He inherited a collection of 264 tiny netsuke.  He wanted to know and understand who had collected them and how they had survived World War II.  The book is a moving 
memoir and detective story as he discovers the history of the netsuke and his family over 5 generations.  The writing is artful, detailed, exquisite... beautifully written memoir... and deeply moving.  He writes not just about the netsuke, but about the art and culture in each generation.

Here is the famous netsuke, THE HARE WITH THE AMBER EYES
Netsuke are miniature sculptures first created in 17th century Japan to serve a practical purpose.
Robes, like kimono, had no pockets.  Men who wore them needed a place to store their belongings like money, medicine, or pipes.  They used a container (sagemono) hung by cords from the robe's sashes (obi).  This box (inro) was held shut by ojime, small carved objects or animals.  The fastener that secured the chord at the top of the sash was a carved, button like toggle called netsuke.

Over time, Netsuke evolved from being utilitarian into objects of great artistic merit and superb craftmanship, highly respected and collected.

It is the quieter side of life that inspires me, with the feelings that come with my connection to the natural world.  My love of rabbits is part of my connection to nature.

This is a rabbit temple in the heart of Kyoto.  I was very happy to find it.

Artist Unknown

Artist W. Tucker,  RABBIT GIRL,  website:

As you see above, artists today depict rabbits and hares in many mediums and forms.  

photo image by Donna Watson

The above image includes one of my ceramic rabbits, and 2 mail art envelopes I created.

photo image by Donna Watson

photo image by Donna Watson

Mono no aware refers to a feeling of life's fragility, and relates to seeing beauty in this fragile, impermanent nature, and even grasping that without permanence, genuine beauty can not exist.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Creativity and Fear

Cold wax and oil paints with collage bundle, 2016, Donna Watson

NOTE:  2 Day Workshop - Boro/Wabi sabi:  The Japanese Spirit of Collage.  May 28-29, 2016 in Minneapolis, MN.  For more information on the workshop, supply list, venue and how to register go to  

Sometimes I have a hard time "beginning"... starting something new.   The books on creativity basically say... just get started..  do "it".  If you can release yourself from the anxiety that might be associated with the word creativity, you'll see, in fact, that you are an enormously creative person.

That sounds like great advice but how do you do it?  

collage, 2016, by Donna Watson

What's your personal definition of creativity?

"Starting with nothing and ending up with something.  Interpreting something you saw or experienced and processing it so it comes out different than how it went in."  punk rocker
Henry Rollins

Fear and creativity go hand and hand on the same road trip.  Work hard and stay focused and do not allow fear to have a vote or to drive.

BIG MAGIC by Elizabeth Gilbert ( author of Pray, Eat, Love)

I have been reading BIG MAGIC...  basically it is about getting started... just begin... leave fear in the dust.  It is easy to read, and easy to say... but hard once I get in to the studio.  

"Its all just an instinct and an experiment and a mystery, so begin....  Begin anywhere.  Preferably right now.  And if greatness should ever by accident stumble upon you, let it catch you hard at work."
Elizabeth Gilbert, Big Magic.

Collage, 2016, by Donna Watson

Always this energy smoulders inside
When it remains unlit
The body fills with dense smoke.----  David Whyte

So, what is your definition of creativity?

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Another New Year....

"Red Enso" collage by Donna Watson

Announcement of 2 March workshops:

      March 5-6:  WABI SABI AND THE SPIRIT OF COLLAGE:  Portland OR at the
      Sheraton Airport Hotel.  For more information on workshop, location, supply list,
      cost, and registration go to  

      March 19-20:  ZEN MEMORY BOOK (will make a folded accordion book on any theme
       such as memories, family, garden, pets, travel etc).  Matzke Fine Art Gallery, Camano 
       Island, WA.  Cost will include lunch.  For more information on location, cost, workshop,
       and registration contact Karla Matzke, 360-387-2759,, website:

Folded book on Zen Gardens by Donna Watson

A NEW YEAR... Time to take stock of the past year and move forward... begin a new chapter...
be open to new possibilities... start over... learn from the past year and move on...

self portrait, journal page, by Donna Watson

Every January, I write down my goals for the new year.  I look at my list from last year and see what goals I met, and what goals I need to extend or continue to work on.  I am always a little disappointed in myself when I see what I accomplished and what I did not finish... and the list of what I did not finish always seems to be the longer list.

photo image by Donna Watson

And every year I go through the same goal setting list... making a new list... often with the same goals written down that were on last year's list.  And every year I am disappointed in myself.  So, this year,
I decided NOT to write another list of goals.

hand made scrolls by Donna Watson

Instead, I decided to make a different sort of list.  Not of goals to be met... or not met.  But to go inside myself more... more introspective and not set myself up for another year of disappointment when I do not meet all my goals....

photo image by Donna Watson

So here is my first one:  TO BECOME MORE MINDFUL.   To appreciate the small things around me, and to be more aware of moments -- live in the present moments.

photo image by Donna Watson

Here is another one:  GRACE...  to respond with more grace when I am disappointed or when a situation or person confronts me with a challenge.

And to be more POSITIVE... I am often accused of seeing "the glass half empty".  

Want the change.  Be inspired by the flame
Where everything shines as it disappears.
The artist, when sketching, loves nothing so much
as the curve of the body as it turns away.

What locks itself in sameness has congealed,
Is it safer to be gray and numb?
What turns hard becomes rigid
and it easily shattered.

Pour yourself like a fountain.
Flow into the knowledge that what you are seeking
finishes often at the start, and with ending, begins.
..... Rainer Maria Rilke, Sonnets to Orpheus, Part Two, XII

photo image of rabbit temple in Kyoto Japan, by Donna Watson

Sunday, November 22, 2015

The Color of Distance and Memory

TIDE, by Donna Watson, cold wax and oil painting with collage

Blue has always been used a a symbol of distance... especially for artists.  No matter how much we try to reach that 'blue' distance, we can never reach it... as we will always see the distant objects showing up as blue.  The blue we see is not in the place those miles away at the horizon, but in distance between you and the mountains, you and the sky, you and the endless distance.


Rebecca Solnit, the author, examines the color blue and its relationships to distance, desire and memory in A FIELD GUIDE TO GETTING LOST.  

"The world is blue at its edges and in its depths.  This blue is the light that got lost.  Light at the blue end of the spectrum does not travel the whole distance from the sun to us.  It disperses among the molecules of the air, it scatters in the water.  Water is colorless, shallow water appears to be the color of whatever lies underneath it, but deep water is full of this scattered light, the purer the water the deeper blue.  The sky is blue for the same reason, but the blue at the horizon, the blue of the land that seems to be dissolving into the sky, is a deeper, dreamier, melancholy blue, the blue at the farthest reaches of the places we see for miles, the blue of distance."  Rebecca Solnit,  A FIELD GUIDE TO GETTING LOST

TIDE, by Donna Watson,  cold wax and oil painting with collage

"This light that does not touch us, does not travel the whole distance, the light that gets lost, gives us the beauty of the world, so much of which is in the color blue."  Rebecca Solnit

SUNLIT PATH, by Donna Watson, cold wax and oil with collage

"Blue is the color of longing for the distances you never arrive in, for the blue world."  RS

ECHOES 3, by Donna Watson, collage

Memory can be just as elusive as distance.  Sometimes gaining and losing are connected like memories.  Remember that some light does not make it all the way through the atmosphere, but scatters.

MEMOIR, by Donna Watson, cold wax and oil painting with collage

"The blue of distance comes with time, with the discovery of melancholy, of loss, the texture of longing, the complexity of the terrain we traverse, then perhaps maturity brings with it not...
abstraction, but an aesthetic sense that partially redeems the losses time brings, and finds beauty in the faraway."  Rebecca Solnit

EMERGENCE by Donna Watson, cold wax and oil painting with collage

It was November - the month of crimson sunsets, parting birds, deep, sad hymns of the sea, passionate wind-songs in the pines.  --- L.M. Montgomery

Some of the  above excerpts came from BRAINPICKINGS by Maria Popova, at