Morris Louis Inspired Artwork


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1961 Claustralimages-121960 While series II magna on canvas

 I’ve always loved the D.C. based artist Morris Louis, who was a contemporary of Jackson Pollock’s, and part of what is known as the Color Field School. You can see some of his work at the National Gallery and it’s like standing before pure color. The hues are so bright and at the same time create these layers of blended color that form new hues and shades. 

I was also fascinated by his technique. I knew from observation and my own technical knowledge that he worked on unprimed canvas, which is what allows the colors to seep into the cotton and bleed into the other colors. Usually artists prime their canvases with a gelatin like substance that seals it, then they build up paint on top of this. This allows them to create figures and more realistic forms. And it also means a longer lasting piece of work. But with the modern movements of the 20th century, artists started playing around with the canvas and the line (think Kandinsky, Pollock, Rothko). But, unlike Pollock, Louis’ paint bleeds into the canvas. Just like I was inspired by Louis, he was inspired by Helen Frankenthaler, another contemporary. She introduced him to the world of staining canvas with her painting, Mountains and Sea.

I decided to see if I could make my own Morris Louis inspired forms, to play around and see if his blended hues were recreate-able. I have to admit, this is the first time I played around while making art in such a long time! Usually, I am more focused on a composition or mastering an image I see before me. But this was almost pure play, and I really want to do it some more! I want to find out what other fun I can have messing with canvases and oils.

First, I scoured the internet to see if I could learn about how he painted. Did he use a specific paint thinner, or was it oil? How did he get the paint on the canvas? Obviously he paints at an angle, but what was the actual technique? 

Louis didn’t allow anyone to observe him at work, but I did manage to find an image of some other artists who stain their canvas. One was trying to recreate some of Louis’ later paintings to learn the technique, just as I was. Another, Rodney Graham, is a fascinating musician and visual/performance artist in his own right, but he lead me to this image:

rodney-graham-morris-louis-1024x523.jpg-2 The Gifted Amateur, November 10th, 1962 (2007)

 I love it for so many, many reasons. First, he’s painting in his silk PJs! I can get behind that. No artiste attitude for him! Secondly, that house! Beautiful, and sort of my dream house. But thirdly, and most importantly for our topic today, he’s showing a way to mimic the way Louis worked. 

Then, I played around with thinners. I tried linseed oil and turpentine, but found turpentine to be the best at capturing this affect. 

So, I bought canvas and stretched it. Mixed pigments and thinned them. At first I poured them from glass jars but found the effect to be sloppy. So, after that, I purchased plastic squeeze bottles and filled them with my oils and turpentine. They allowed for a much more directed style. 

Here are my two works, in order of completion. I’m fairly pleased. At least as much as I could be when I am an amateur (I won’t even say gifted) and this was my first attempt at a new technique. They do look nice on the wall, and lend some much needed color to otherwise dreary, large beige walls. 

photo 1 photo 2 


Savory Cakes and Summer


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One of the reasons why I love Trader Joe’s is because they have delicious frozen items that can be combined with fresh foods to make a quick meal. I’m no Sandra Lee of Semi-Homemade Meals (or whatever it’s called) but on a weeknight I really like that cooking doesn’t take quite as long. I’ve got things to do!

Anyway, this meal here uses TJ’s Melodious Blend (how can you say no to a title like that?) which has green and red lentils, green garbanzo beans and tomatoes. Along with that I made a quick creamy coleslaw of some ingredients in the fridge (a little bit of a spicy lime dressing I had, some Caesar dressing and other seasonings) and diced some red and yellow tomatoes from the CSA box. I pan-fried some red onions from the box to give it a little crunch. And on top of all of this rested a Trader Joe’s crab cake, which comes two in a package and is very tasty!


I really, really, really liked the different flavors at work here, and the textures too. There were the fresh tomatoes, and lentils for some wholesome earthiness, creamy and crunchy lettuce, crabby-creamy cakes and the bite of onions. It took maybe 30 minutes tops and was one of the best things I’ve eaten in a long time. Obviously, which is why I only have a half eaten dish to show you!  (And I’m making that coleslaw again tonight!!)

The next day, while I was at the gym, I couldn’t stop thinking about how much I’d loved this dinner. Since I’m also trying to eat healthier, I was going to have tuna for lunch. I thought that because I couldn’t have crab cakes I should just have tuna cakes instead. After my work out I hurried home and started constructing these little baby cakes. I used an egg yolk I had, some seasonings and I quickly processed a heel of garlic naan I toasted. Next time I’d use two yolks to hold them together even more because a couple of the cakes broke (but were still delicious!). I had a few more of those red and yellow tomatoes and SO MUCH BASIL from the CSA box so I decided to make a quick side salad.


The tuna cakes sat on a bed of cottage cheese that I seasoned very lightly with lime juice and salt. It really didn’t need anything extra, though. Around the tuna I arranged the tomatoes and drizzled a little olive oil.

Now, all this sounds normal and good. But the black plums you see are what elevated this dish for me. I picked up a few plums at the store recently, and I couldn’t get the image of their shining ruby colored flesh out of my mind. They stayed there like plump little jewels, making my mouth water with their sweet juiciness. I skinned one (which is fairly easy!) and quartered them. Unless they’re really unripe the pieces of plum will be a little messy, but you want them like that. More mess means more sweetness. Kind of like in life. The juices would also help make the dressing for this side dish. I tossed the plums in about two tablespoons of balsamic vinegar at the last moment, and arranged them around the tomatoes. I spooned the leftover vinegar over the plums and garnished everything with basil.

And that’s how I had two days of cake and two delicious meals.


Marshmallow Science!


My students brought my their food science project today. I’ve never had anything other than overly processed chewy marshmallows, straight from a bag. I didn’t even know you could make them at home. These are so much better!! I taste vanilla and powdered sugar and they are fluffy and have just the right amount of give when you bite in. It makes me really sad that we didn’t have a food science class. I think that might have been one science class I would have gotten As in.

I’d like to say I’ll never buy another of the store bought kind. Maybe after I microwave a s’more in the teacher lounge.

Later Do Not Microwave Homemade Marshmallows!!
They were not designed to withstand such abuse. They will melt into fluff, which, although delicious, does not yield very good s’mores.

Luckily, I had a spare marshmallow and made this untasted version, and it was yummy.


A Grand Finale

Dear Meredyth,

If you had asked me a year ago how I would want to spend my last long weekend in Botswana, I would not have said, “hanging out with 65 teenage girls, eating Setswana food, sleeping on the floor with six other volunteers, teaching sessions, playing camp games and leading many, many, many cheers.” Alas, that is how I spent my holiday weekend (it was Independence Day here in Botswana.) You know what? It was effing amazing. I spent every last ounce of my energy and patience, but it was absolutely worth it.

The first test of my patience came before camp even got started. Transportation is always an issue here Botswana, this time was no exception. Three of my girls and I waited at the bus stop in Phitshane Molopo from 10:30am til 1:30pm. Did we get picked up in that time? Nope, we were told to go home, and come back to wait again at 3:00pm.

ImageDimpho, Amogelang, and Kelebileone, being good troopers while we waited on our ride. Three of my favorite girls!

Eventually we were picked up at 5:30pm. We squeezed onto the 25 seater bus with 40 other campers and Peace Corps Volunteers. This is a typical transport situation in Bots, everyone knows the drill: three to a seat, assembly line the bags to the back, and find a spot to shove them.

Once we all arrived, ate a late dinner, played a few ice breakers, laid down the rules and gave some instructions on how to survive the accommodations (oh, I forgot to mention, the boarding school we were staying at has no water. It just adds to the fun?) My other PCVs and I piled into our room for a quick, bleary-eyed meeting about the schedule for the next day before giving in to exhaustion.

The camp went so well. Our theme was, “I am woman. Hear me roar!” To honor that theme we made the girls scream ‘roar’ at every opportunity, as well as listen to the Katy Perry song, “Roar”. I have never been a real fan of KP, but that song was certainly fun and fitting for GLOW (girls leading our world) camp.


Thulaganyo, Maatla and me making our vision boards. Notice Maatla’s hoodie says, “Girls Rule”. So appropriate.





Mere, you would have been so proud of me; I was the energizer bunny when it came to leading icebreakers, games, and dances. Most impressive was my friend Liz; Saturday was her 24th birthday, she led four sessions teaching and doing crafts, and still found energy to sing, dance, and play with the girls at every free moment. We celebrated her awesomeness at the end of the night, when she was trying to keep herself awake until we finished our meeting.

Camp Birthday Cake:

Vanilla cake made with olive oil instead of butter. Why? Because that’s what I had to work with and I am on a baking with olive oil love train.

Easiest chocolate ganache frosting in the world: When you pull the cake out of the oven, place your favorite chocolate bar on top. Let it sit for a few minutes, and then slowly spread it over the cake. Boom, chocolate frosting.

After six months of planning, budgets, government purchasing order, lesson planning and coordinating transport, GLOW camp finally came, and sadly went. I wasn’t sure how this project would go for me, it being my last two weeks as a PCV in Botswana (I thought my senioritis would take over). But this camp gave me some of the best memories of service. I love my girls to pieces, and I am so happy that we got to experience this camp.

ImageIn those few days the girls went from shy kids, sticking to their school groups, to dancing, singing, roaring, best friends with everyone, contagiously smiley young women. I am absolutely ending my service on a high note, I would not trade this experience that for anything.






All my love and roars,