Home Blog Page 3

Which Sugar is Vegan?

What to do about the sugar?
Some granulated cane sugar is filtered and whitened using bone charcoal. It doesn’t contain an animal product, but an animal product has been used in its making. In the view of some, this means it’s not vegan. And that’s technically correct.

It’s often suggested that organic sugars of various kinds be used instead of conventionally grown cane sugar. However, I don’t think this is any more vegan than sugar filtered through bone. Organic growing uses massive amounts of animal products, including blood meal, fish emulsion, various manures, ground up feathers, and, yes, even bone meal … which is, as the name suggests, ground up bones. I don’t believe a product grown with bones is any more vegan than one filtered through bones. In many ways, I’d say it’s less vegan.

Beet sugar, made from sugar beets, is also often suggested as a vegan sugar alternative. In recent years, 95% of beets grown for sugar have been genetically modified (GMO). Litigation this year that attempted to prohibit the growing of GMO beets was struck down. I currently live in Michigan, where lots of sugar beets and other GMO crops are grown. The fields, and any animals living there, are decimated by this kind of farming … not to mention the damage it does to the surrounding land and water. So, I don’t think beet sugar is all that “vegan” either, although it probably comes the closest.
When it comes down to the details, there really is no granulated or powdered sugar that’s entirely vegan. Each of them contributes to the death of animals in their own way, and none are substantially better than the others.
So, my feeling on sugar is like my feeling on books and magazines with pages sized with gelatin; I wish they were vegan, but they’re not. None of them are. So, I read many books and magazines, and occasionally, I buy a box of Oreos. Not often, but I don’t think doing so is any “less vegan” than buying another form of granulated sugar.
The best strategy, I think, is to simply avoid processed sugar as much as possible and use it as an occasional food. Not only is it unhealthy for us, but it’s also not healthy for ~ or kind to ~ our fellow earthlings, in a myriad of ways.
When a less processed sweetener is desired, dates and date paste are fabulous, as are bananas. Coconut aminos,  date palm sugar, turbinado, etc., are also wonderful. Stevia works well in some cases, as does agave.

Next year, I’m going to grow some veganic sugar beets and see if I can make my own sugar with them. That should be an interesting project! If it turns out, I’ll let you know!



resist: 1325–75; ME resisten (v.) < L resistere to remain standing,
a substance that prevents or inhibits some effect from taking place


I really like a textured looking background, but I paint in very thin washes, which isn’t compatible with the thicker and more opaque layers that are usually seen in mixed media. Putting down some kind of resist before I add color helps create some dimension and interest.

I start with a very lightly gessoed canvas that is still quite porous. Too much gesso will make the canvas too slick and not porous enough. I also experimented on a lightly gessoed Moleskine page, and bare watercolor paper.

For the resist in my projects today, I used a regular glossy gel medium, an ultra heavy glossy gel medium, and modeling paste. Anything that makes a mark that is less porous than the canvas or paper will work as a resist. 

There are several different ways to put the resist down. Any kind of handmade or rubber stamp lightly coated with gloss medium can be pressed into the canvas or paper. A palette knife can be used to spread an imperfect coat of modeling paste in places on the canvas …

Using an old brush, glossy gel medium can be flicked in spots at random over the canvas.

Screens, stencils, silk screens and anything else with an open pattern can be used to press modeling paste or gel medium through.

Once the different resists are down, I add thin washes of acrylic paint. For this project, I wanted a subtle effect with the resists, so I made them fairly thin. The more porous canvas will soak up more pigment than the resist leaving an interesting design.

I wanted pink stripes and used masking tape as something of a resist. When using tape, the paint can’t be too watery, otherwise it will seep under the edges of the taper. That can actually be an interesting effect, but I didn’t want that here so went with a drier paint … in pink!

My pink is made of Liquitex Quinacridone Magenta mixed with Titanum White.

I decided to use a silk screened image over the stripes …

and added some moonflowers …

This works the best on canvas, for me anyway. The effect is usually more subtle on paper.

Products used …


  • Ultra Heavy Gel Medium, glossy
  • Gel Medium, glossy
  • Modeling Paste, light
  • Vivid Lime Green
  • Yellow Light Hansa
  • Quinacridone Magenta
  • Titanium White
  • Cobalt Teal
  • Turquoise Deep
  • Sap Green

Progress … WIPs



a movement toward a goal

going on; under way; being done; happening:

to grow or develop, as in complexity, scope, or severity; advance

Works in progress …

“sight” 10″ x 10″ x 2.5″

“she’s a rainbow” 12″ x 12″ x 2″

7″ x 7″ x 2.5″

“shh” … 12″ x 12″ x 2″

24″ x 24″ x 2.5″

24″ x 24″ x 2.5″

“allie and ledger – life size” 24″ x 24″ x 2.5″

Stretch … How to Make Your Own Artist’s Canvas


to draw out or extend (oneself, a body, limbs, wings, etc.) to the full length or extent

to extend, force, or make serve beyond the normal or proper limits; strain: to stretch the imagination

“he taught us drawling, stretching, and fainting in coils” ~ lewis carrollSeveral years ago, we built our own house. I don’t mean we acted as a subcontractor and paid someone else to do the work, I mean we built it with a hammer and nails and saws … with our own hands.

Even so, I was ridiculously intimidated when it came to making a frame for canvas and I put off even trying until a couple years ago. Artist Jane Kenoyer has some excellent canvas building tutorial videos which I’ve posted here previously … and they were very helpful in convincing me to give it a go. I’m glad I did. It’s less expensive, especially for very large canvases, and I’m able to choose the ground rather than try to work around what was put there by a canvas manufacturer.

To start, you need wood for the canvas frame. These pieces are for a tiny 5″ x 5″ canvas, and are about one inch each way, but usually I use 1″ x 3″.

The canvas doesn’t rest on a wide piece of wood. Rather, it’s held up around the edges by just a thin strip of wood. To get that edge on any canvas frame, I bevel cut them with the table saw.

The corners are cut at 45 degree angles on a miter saw.

I nearly always use 1″ x 3″ pine, or 1″ x 6″ that has been ripped in half to make it 1″ x 3″. Sometimes I splurge for the clear stuff, but I’ve also found good solid, knot free wood in the less expensive types.

I work on one corner at a time and coat each mitered edge with wood glue. A corner vise holds them together at a right angle so they can be nailed with 1 1/2″ finish nails.

Larger canvases will require cross bracing where needed.

Once I have the frame built, I tear a piece of canvas that is just slightly larger than what I need to stretch across the front, around the sides, and over the back where it will be stapled. I make a small cut and then tear the canvas. It’s much easier and more accurate than trying to cut a straight line.

I buy my rolls of canvas online, and get 11.5 ounce raw canvas. “Medium weight” canvas commonly found in art stores is quite thin (7 oz, usually) and I’ve found isn’t nearly sturdy enough for a wider canvas frame. It’s also more expensive.

To stretch the canvas, start in the middle and staple opposite sides, pulling the canvas as tight as possible. Then go to the other two opposing sides and staple the middle. Work out from the middle, pulling tightly and alternating sides so everything is kept evenly taut. There’s a tool called, appropriately enough, canvas pliers, which is basically a very wide pair of pliers. I haven’t gotten around to getting one and use a regular pair of pliers when needed. It took making a few canvases to develop a feel for what worked best for me.

Once the sides have been stapled, the corners can be made.

Making corners is difficult to explain. It’s basically like a hospital corner.

Once everything is stapled down, the canvas can be primed with gesso or whatever is preferred. I use a few very thin layers of gesso thinned with water, which leaves the canvas quite porous and suitable only for acrylics and not oils (oils will degrade fabric, so a heavier coat of gesso is needed).

Regardless of size, all canvases are basically made the same way. Below is a nearly 4′ x 6′ canvas I made recently. There are cross braces because the span of the sides is long enough to bow without them, but the corners of the frame are made the same way. The canvas is stretched the same way as well.

A 4′ x 6′ canvas can cost as much as $350 or more. I put this one together for less than $35.

Now … if I could just decide what to put on it …


When the moon blooms
Like a flower in the night
~ Mark Heard

I’ve always been fascinated with moonflowers … they’re evening/night blooming flowers. Unfortunately, I’ve already killed my moonflower seedlings for this year. I let them get chilled. They have to be kept really warm. I’ll have to settle with painting them.

This is a 6″ x 6″ hand stretched 11 ounce canvas with 2 1/2″ sides (I’ll put up a tutorial on how to make these soon). I love the chunkiness of it. I lightly gessoed the canvas. Too much gesso and any watery paint will just pool on the surface. This way, the canvas stays matte and a bit porous and it’s more like working on watercolor paper.

I made this for our new neighbors. We live in the country and have been smack in the middle of 40 acres for years. We finally have a neighbor, almost within shouting distance … a nice family with little kids. Anyway, this is on a 5″ x 5″ hand stretched 7 ounce canvas with 1″ sides. I kind of like working small sometimes.

It needs … something. It doesn’t seem finished. The spiral shape is also know as a golden spiral … It’s on a 12″ x 12″ hand stretched 11 ounce canvas with 2 1/2″ sides. I’ve used tinted and untinted gel medium as a resist here.




Old English beginnan “to begin, attempt, undertake,” form of onginnan perhaps, “to open, open up” (cf. O.H.G. in-ginnan “to cut open, open up,” also “begin, undertake”

to proceed to perform the first or earliest part of some action; commence; start

to originate; be the originator of

to come into existence
Do you ever have trouble getting started? Beginning?

I do, sometimes. Many times, I wait until something is fully formed in my head before I start putting it together. I think I miss out, though, when I don’t just go ahead and start with whatever glimmer of an idea I have and see what happens … or even begin with no idea at all. Because, no matter how I begin, the idea – in the making of it – will almost always


change in form, appearance, or structure; metamorphose

change in condition, nature, or character; to undergo a change in appearance or character;

become transformed

It’s never exactly what it was in my head.

“Too often, we are so preoccupied with the destination that we forget the journey …” ~ anonymous

“… let your mind start a journey thru a strange new world. Leave all thoughts of the world you knew before.” Let your soul take you were you long to be … Close your eyes, let your spirit start to soar, and you’ll live as you’ve never lived before.” ~ Erich Fromm


flit, flutter, hover, soar

clever, alert, wide awake, first recorded 18th c, reinvented in 1990s

to rise

In making these three small paintings, I used mostly the techniques I’ve done here before … some resist with pastes and glazes, a bit of silk screen, some relief and embossing, etc.

To a turquoise and lime green background, I added some titanium white stripes and magenta spots. To make the spots, I cut out a stencil of watercolor paper (I ran out of acetate, but this worked better than I expected), and did a thin wash through the holes.

This is a product I find handy. It’s called EZ Screen Print. It’s a light sensitive sheet coated with emulsion that can be exposed in sunlight and then used as a screen without a frame. At $10 or more a sheet, it’s a lot more expensive than regular silk screening supplies, but it’s convenient and works well on a smaller canvas like this. I can’t ever seem to use products in the way they were intended, so your mileage may vary as they say, but I just used straight from the tube acrylic paint and pushed it through the screen with a palette knife …

and added text with permanent ink.

The Most Delicious Thing


“For the last two and a half years, I’ve been able to declare, without hesitation and with only a modest sense of theater, that the most delicious thing I’ve eaten in a long time was a bowl of warm pig’s blood.” 

So begins Bill Buford’s tale for the New York Times Magazine of one of the tastiest meals and most aware moments of his life … a tale of his slaughtering of a living being so he might drink her blood.   The tale ends with an exhilarated Buford sheepishly sporting a blood moustache. 

The blood was of a pig, an animal more intelligent, and often more socially complex, than any nonhuman primate. Pigs can play video games and they can remember abstract ideas years after an event. It’s recognized by most animal behaviorists that pigs are, “as intelligent as a three year old child.“  

We all know, of course, that it would be wrong to kill a three-year-old child. Right? But here’s a thought. If a three-year-old child and a pig are equally aware, equally cognizant, equally alive … then is there really all that much difference between killing the child and killing the pig? Arguably, there’s a difference in their value to us. Under most circumstances, any human child is going to be more valuable than a pig would be to another human being. But to each of them, is there really any difference in their experience of dying? Of being killed? Would a pig experience the event of having a knife stuck in his throat in a significantly different way than would a human child of equal awareness? And if they would each experience the event in the same way, wouldn’t killing them be equally wrong? 

What disturbs so many of us when we hear of a young child being injured or killed is we imagine what must have happened to the child and what she must have felt while it happened. Someone like Caylee Anthony, the little girl in the Florida case that transfixed the nation for months, was just weeks away from her third birthday. Whatever the cause of her death, she would have been cognizant enough to know something horrible was happening, but not so cognizant as to understand why. That she didn’t understand why it was happening makes her last moments, whatever they were, perhaps even more horrible to contemplate. Certainly, we all understand she was capable of pain and fear and terror; given her nearly three-year-old level of cognition she was capable of suffering

” … the most delicious thing I’ve eaten in a long time was a bowl of warm blood pig’s blood. I had it on a cold day in February 2009, in a gravel-and-straw courtyard, on a farm, in the hills above the Rhone River, in France.”

Buford’s romanticized tale becomes a screaming nightmare if you reread it replacing the word pig with human child. Yet any three-year-old child, compared with any member of any species of pig, would possess roughly the same skill at playing video games, and have about the same memory for abstract events. They would each be fascinated by and able to use mirrors. They would also have similar central nervous systems and a similar ability to feel physical pain and emotional terror. In other words, in all the ways that matter to the one who is being killed, their experience would be the same. 

“Two friends slaughtered the pig that morning, following an old-fashioned approach. I had wanted to witness it, mainly to see how the deed was done but also to learn what the effect on me might be.” 

Mr. Buford was curious about what it looked and felt and smelled like to kill a living being, one who had the cognizance of a three-year-old child, and because we have no laws preventing such things, he was able to indulge that curiosity. Being the arbiter of life and death, especially over a being so similar to humans, must be a powerful feeling. Indeed, Ted Bundy had this to say about his victims: “You feel the last bit of breath leaving their body. You’re looking into their eyes. A person in that situation is God!”

Bill Buford continued: 

“It was strong — it took four of us to pin it down — and had an abundance of character and a withering self-awareness: it knew it was going to die … “

After killing three year old Breeann Rodriguez, Shawn Morgan stated to the police that it “felt like it took an hour for the girl to die.”

During the actual experience of being killed, there really isn’t all that much difference between one being who has the awareness of a three-year-old child and another being who has the awareness of a three-year-old child, even if one of them is a pig. So what does that say about their killers?

What does that say about us? I can’t argue with Mr. Buford when he says, “Every meat eater participates indirectly in an animal’s death, normally at a very far remove.”  Because he’s correct.

At any given moment, there are 65 million pigs in American factory farms. Each year, in the United States alone, we will cut the throats of more than 112 million pigs …  213 every minute; 112 million living beings who possess the same (or higher) level of cognition and awareness as Caylee Anthony, or Breeann Rodriquez, or any other three-year-old child. 

Of those 112 million beings capable of rudimentary video game playing, with bodies and minds so very similar to our own, many of them will arrive at the scald tank alive, conscious, and exquisitely aware of what’s happening to them. What they won’t understand is why it’s happening. And neither will I. 




V is for Value …


… or, what will $22 billion buy?

verb, noun
1. to consider with respect to worth, excellence, usefulness, or importance.
2. relative worth, merit, or importance
3. monetary or material worth

How many top hedge fund managers can we get for $22 billion?

This many …

That’s right. Twenty five.

There are 25 dots in the square above. Most of us can fit 25 people in our kitchens.

In 2009, the twenty five highest paid hedge fund managers collectively made $22 billion in income. Not only that, but thanks to a tax loophole, their income is taxed at 15% as long-term capital gains rather than as income. In short, they are richly rewarded and not asked to contribute much back. Yet, hedge fund managers produce nothing that can be eaten, worn, breathed, drank, lived in, read, thought about, or otherwise be of genuine use. In other words, they do nothing we can’t easily live without.

And if we paid them each $50,000,  which most of us would agree is at the middle to lower end of a living wage, how many teachers, artists, fire fighters, nurses, writers, road workers, (veganic!) farmers, alternative energy developers, grocery store workers, child care workers, and so on, can we get for $22 billion?

This many …

Yes, that’s right. In case you didn’t stop to count, that’s 440,000. That many people would fill about ten large football stadiums.

If we pay a living wage of $50,000 to the producers of goods and services we actually need and from which we all benefit, $22 billion will pay for almost a half million of them. We get to enjoy their goods and services, and they get to make a living wage.

That’s a win-win scenario.

I’ll file this under, “just sayin.”

The Party of Life


Manifest Destiny …

as Trojan Horse.