Thursday, October 6, 2016

HELP! (Calling all Expert Organizers)

Organization does not come naturally to me. I've never quite understood why I should clean up just to make a new mess.

But when I began to think about blogging and sharing my creative process, it became apparent that I would need a more photogenic studio space than the usual tidal wave of materials that only makes sense to me (and not much sense at that).

News From the Oddball Art Laboratory

Breaking EarthPaint News!

Here in the Oddball Art Laboratory, art is also a science, with lots of accidental discoveries. Today's observation is a major breakthrough!

Monday, September 12, 2016

Organizing Chaos

A tidy studio space: for me, this usually means one in which art is not being actively created.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Overdue Changes and Updates

I have finally updated a few of the main blog pages, so they won't appear in the blog feed, but if you will look to the top left column of this page you will see links for "About Me" and two updated Gallery pages. Please check it out, and as always, I'd love some likes, shares, and comments!

These are the links:

About Me

Gallery of Works: EarthPaint

Gallery of Works: Weirdo Edition

And here's a picture of me, dressed up like a gypsy in the last stage play I did. For no reason. (Well, maybe two reasons...)

Is it odd that my "costume" actually consisted of my own clothes?

I don't think so.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Guest Blog post - Leah Fanning Mebane at

I've been so busy working on Nostril Woman, I almost forgot: I would like to thank artist and blogger Leah Fanning Mebane for giving me my first opportunity to do some Guest Blogging on her wonderful blog, Natural Earth Paint.

Works-In-Progress: Studio Update July 27, 2016

Since my last blog post, I've been working nonstop on one of the most challenging projects I have ever done: writing and illustrating a children's book. It is called “The Adventures of Nostril Woman (The Worst Super Hero EVER).” Here's one of my favorite excerpts:

Friday, June 24, 2016

Last Sunlight: Rain on the Blue Ridge Parkway

Last Sunlight: Rain on the Blue Ridge Parkway
EarthPaint on Canvas, 6" x 6"
Laura Z 2016

I am blessed to live about 5 minutes from the spectacular Blue Ridge Parkway in Maggie Valley, NC. This is based on a photo taken a few days ago, shortly before dusk, Rain and mist crept up Water Rock Knob, while a nearby ridge was bathed in the most beautiful puddles of sunlight. What a breathtaking sight it was! This area is without a doubt among the most beautiful places in the world, in addition to providing me with a wealth of mineral colors for my palette. The illuminated ridge was done in a lovely sparkling yellow-green mineral (I think it is olivine but I'm not sure) that I found beside the highway outside of nearby Waynesville, NC. It is a gorgeous soft lichen color, very powdery and full of sparkle. I find all kinds of mineral treasures around here: I'm convinced that I could not have developed this medium anywhere else in the world.

Apple Blossoms

Apple Blossoms
EarthPaint on Canvas 6" x 6"
Laura Z 2016

This is based on a photo I took of an apple tree outside my home. One day I will paint one that also incorporates the beautifully rusted 1927 truck that sits under it. The combination of the apple tree and the old truck is one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen,

Monday, May 30, 2016

The Oddball Art Laboratory

I have no idea what I’m doing, but a thousand ways to do it: I’m equal parts Artist and Mad Scientist. I’m making this up as I go along, not only creating art, but also the tools and materials I use to make it.

I’ve spent sixteen years collecting and preparing colorful mineral samples to use as a rough pigment for highly textured paintings on canvas with surprising natural color, made using a variety of acrylic gel mediums.

It is unlike any other art medium I’ve used: its unusual challenges have led to the invention of some strange tools and equipment, mostly from an oddball assortment of found metal and plastic objects, re-purposed household items, and packaging scraps that could qualify me for an episode of Hoarders.

Fine grains of mineral sand eat paintbrushes for breakfast - it's like painting with concrete - so I had to get creative.

Ridiculously creative.

Obsessed, really: I’m fully aware of how strange it must look.

Is that a pot of soup on the stove?
Better ask: maybe I’m boiling some beach sand to remove decaying organic matter.

Is she casting a spell? Why is there sparkly dust everywhere?
I’m just grinding mica in my granite mortar and pestle, then processing it with water, a baby medicine dropper, several mason jars, a wire strainer and maybe some pantyhose.

This is normal, right?

And then there’s the Weirdo Toolbox.

There are few commercially available tools that fit my needs, so invention is an integral part of my creative process. Most of my tools come from a neurotic assortment of random weirdness.

I've long collected strange little doodads like plastic and cardboard packaging scraps, or small mechanical components from broken appliances or discarded car parts.

A pen with no ink is a sublime little piece of trash that can always find new life in the Oddball Art Laboratory.

Not everything works like I intend, and sometimes I just have to laugh at myself, imagining what a stranger would think of the ridiculous activities that have become my daily routine.

My artistic process is extremely odd and quirky, but it works (most of the time). I get a childish joy from fusing random elements to create the perfect specialty tool.

Who knew gluing plastic collar stays to a popsicle stick could make me so happy?

I love flowers as much as any girl, but my sweetie knows the way to my heart: he brings me adhesives.

I get as much delight from these peculiar little inventions as I do from the art I make with them.

Along with painting tools, I've also created some custom equipment and storage solutions, mostly using materials I've rescued from the landfill.

My Mobile Magnetic Studio is a work of art on its own: my best and brightest mineral pigments in small containers, organized by color on a metal rack for displaying brochures (also reclaimed trash).

My Mobile Magnetic Studio 

I can easily select the pigments I need, so it is highly functional when I am painting, and a beautiful way to showcase (or transport) my colorful labor of love when I'm not.

Each container is labeled with the name of the mineral (when available) and a small swatch in acrylic medium. This is essential because the minerals are light in color when dry, but the clear mediums, especially gloss finishes, bring out the vibrant natural colors. Some mediums will produce a color that is closer to the dry minerals, while other formulas enhance the natural sparkle of reflective material like mica or crystals.

This is all by trial and error - this blog is the culmination of years of experimentation: I keep a painting journal to record results, develop ideas for new techniques or tools, and explore my evolving personal aesthetic.
In my studio, art is also a nerdy, ongoing science project.

My magnetic Easel / Palette 

Innovation is essential when working in a made-up medium like mine.

Some construction tools can be adapted to suit my needs, and many household items like medicine droppers, tiny measuring spoons, tweezers, or makeup brushes and applicators find their way to my studio.

Most of the time I just make something new: if I need a tool that hasn't been invented, The Weirdo Toolbox delivers.

All this auxiliary activity can sometimes feel like a distraction from the actual artwork, but it also puts me in a constant state of creative problem-solving.

It keeps the water running so the pipes don’t freeze.

It's perfect for those off-days when I feel uninspired or I'm frustrated with a work-in-progress - I've learned not to force it but to step back and return later with fresh eyes.

There are always rocks to grind, tools to make, a blog to update, or a messy studio in need of a little TLC.

My side projects often address problems with organization, a skill that does not come to me naturally, but which I am finding necessary for my artistic well-being.

I'm learning how to maintain a functional work space that is conducive to creativity, and making tools is a fun, pressure-free activity - even when a little experiment doesn't work, it was already trash, so there's nothing to lose but time.

Improvisational tool-building is not without its frustrations - I have a tempestuous love/hate relationship with tape and other adhesives - but I love what it teaches me about patience and the creative process.

For these activities the stakes are low - not like when I risk ruining a painting by trying out a new technique, or waste precious crushed gemstones on a piece that doesn't quite work. Mostly it's pure fun, and I end up with some really great tools.

It reminds me not to take myself too seriously - it's hard not to laugh at myself when I'm assembling tools out of peculiar little whatchamacallits in the Oddball Art Laboratory.

My Improvised Tools (from left to right):

1. This is a funneling tool made from the corner of a cigarette box, for returning unused mineral sand into small containers2. This tool is for gently pressing dry mineral sand into wet acrylic medium under it. It's a little plastic circle (leftover packaging) with a small rubber tube for a handle.3. This is a silicon eye shadow applicator I extended with a bamboo skewer and electrical tape.4. This double ended tool has a nib from an empty pen and a tiny fine-tipped electrical component.5. My favorite tool: two plastic collar stays on popsicle sticks, one of them cut to a fine point.6. A piece of fabricated stainless steel wire I attached to an old pen barrel: one end has a rounded tip, and the other a flat edge.
7. I used bristles from a rubber basting brush, one long and one short.
8. I don't know what this little metal piece on the end is, but it is a perfect application tool for a medium-thick line of paint or ink.
9. Plastic trays from disposable contact lenses are perfect for mixing small amounts of blended material.

Most of these tools have been finished with adhesive foam sheets for comfortable grip, and of course all of them have magnets so they don't grow legs and play hide-and-seek.

Inside the Weirdo Toolbox

Follow the links below to see the various Galleries of  my original Artworks 

EarthPaint: Nature Snapshots Small, de-contextualized nature studies in mineral paint
Expressions in EarthPaint More expressive, abstract works
Gallery of Works: Weirdo Edition - Mixed Media

Saturday, May 21, 2016

September Blush

September Blush
EarthPaint on canvas, 18" x 24"
Laura Z 2015


October Bloom

October Bloom
EarthPaint on canvas, 10" x 10"
Laura Z, 2015
Private Collection

This painting was commissioned as a smaller version of a larger work. I can reprise nearly any existing work o a smaller or larger scale or various other adjustments from the original work.

Nadir (In Memory of David Shirmohammad)
EarthPaint on Canvas, 12" x 12"
Laura Z, 2016
Private Collection

This memorial painting was done in honor of a dear friend. In the lower left side of the painting, I embedded a small glass bottle which contains some of his ashes. It was made using beach sand from a site in Flagler Beach, FL that was very special to him and his widow. I especially love doing commissioned work using site-specific materials that have special significance, and this painting was a great honor to create a legacy painting for my dear friend. I wanted to infuse this painting with as much peace, love, and healing energy as I possibly could. I would love the opportunity to create similar works. 

Forgotten Pines

Forgotten Pines
EarthPaint on canvas, 8" X 8"
Laura Z, 2012


This painting is based on a photograph I took in Panthertown Valley in Cashiers, NC. It's a one hundred-year-old abandoned Christmas tree farm, surrounded by the lush vegetation of the Nantahala National Forest. It is one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen.


EarthPaint on canvas, 11" X 14"
Laura Z 2016


Mica Moon Reflections

Mica Moon Reflections, EarthPaint on canvas, 5" x 5"
Laura Z 2016


Monday, May 16, 2016


EarthPaint on canvas, 6" x 6"
Laura Z 2016


Friday, May 13, 2016


EarthPaint on canvas, 6" x 6"
 Laura Z 2016


Drawn to Magnets (And Really Bad Puns)

Magnet Madness

My mobile magnetic studio (above, left and below): my brightest mineral pigments, arranged on a metal display rack. 

This represents a ton of work: each little container is a distinct color of rock paint, which I grind by hand and process with a few different techniques I've developed over the past 16 years I've been doing this. 

At right (1st photo) is a magnet board with mediums and tools. I attached a folding stand from a picture frame on the back so it stands upright. 

In the bottom half of the 1st photo is a handheld magnetic "easel palette" I developed. 

In photo #3 you can see some of my specialty tools:
  • re-purposed makeup brushes
  • plastic packaging from disposable contact lenses for mixing trays
  • a brush holder I made using a binder clip glued to a little rubber thingy (I think it once held drill bits)
  • a recycled plastic pen barrel and a cool piece of shaped steel wire with one round burr tip and a flat tip
  • silicone eye shadow applicators that I extended with a bamboo skewer
  • My favorite tool: a plastic collar stay glued to a popsicle stick.
All these tools have been magnetized. My medium requires a lot of invention to adapt to various challenges - sometimes I feel like the MacGuyver of painting! 

Regular paintbrushes are of limited use because the grains of mineral sand destroy them very quickly. 

I also need to work on a horizontal surface that I can move around as needed. The EarthPainting process is gravity-assisted.
The magnets help me keep track of everything and mitigate my legendary clumsiness - I'd be very upset if I spilled any of this handmade rock paint, and I don't have to waste time looking for misplaced tools. 

The best part is that my studio is fully mobile: I can just pick it up and take it anywhere without having to pack it up!

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Head in the Clouds; Hands in the Earth

Nadir (In Memory of David Shirmohammad), EarthPaint on canvas
Laura Z 
2016. This memorial painting is embedded with a small glass bottle containing a dear friend's ashes.
I've always been a bit of an oddball. I've created art in one form or another since I was a kid: directing my little sisters in plays I wrote (and starred in, of course); singing at the top of my lungs, perched in the highest branches of a sprawling ficus tree; brutal, larger-than-life teenage dramas that could qualify as performance art.