Rolling the dice, Part II

Posted in drawing, little books, mixed media, painting, paper on September 19, 2018 by Betsy Lahaussois


Though I love messing around with sketchbooks,  once you have assembled and stitched together a group of pristine pages, it takes courage to make the first mark. So Roll the Dice! The choice of color and tool is now out of your hands, and it becomes a game, with nothing to win, nothing to lose. I bought myself a set of cheap gouache tubes at the grocery store, which included colors I never pick up (really, dayglow pink? lime green?), numbered them, and followed orders. As this practice evolved, I got more adventurous (tear! gouge! burn!)…and still later, simplified the commands to just three colors and just three actions, and six rolls from start to finish, to avoid the “everything but the kitchen sink” look. Here is a selection of sketchbook pages for which I relied completely on the roll of the dice each decision. (Click on a thumbnail to enlarge it.)





Rolling the Dice

Posted in Uncategorized on September 6, 2017 by Betsy Lahaussois

I went to an inspiring Matthew Harris art workshop a couple of years ago, in which our decisions were made by rolling the dice. What a brilliant idea for getting unstuck, and on with it! We all know there are twenty ways you can proceed at any stage of a painting, and sometimes the range of possibilities can seem overwhelming. Making a game of it–rolling the dice and letting fate decide–is a pretty great strategy for lightening up!

Matthew himself was inspired by Richard Serra’s “list of actions”:


Can’t you imagine assigning an action to each card in a deck, and letting the card you draw determine what you do next? It’s out of your hands–relax and enjoy it!

But I like dice better than cards. I like how they look, I like their nostalgia value, and the way they click as you shake them and roll them out. And like Frog and Toad, I LOVE making lists, and checking things off.

So I have made myself this little notebook, with my standard daily checklist printed out on each page. After I’ve practiced this and exercised that, I roll the dice for my bonus task, and write down what I did….

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Here is my current list of eleven actions to shake things up a bit!

1. (Not applicable–if you are rolling two dice, you’ll never land on 1)

 2. Make a phone call 

3. Draw

4. Write a letter to a friend

5. Try a new recipe

6. Throw or give something away

7. Perform a random act of generosity

8. Read for an hour

9. Do something you’ve never done before

10. Meditate

11. Teach someone something

12. Sight read in Italian tablature

Yesterday I rolled an 11, “Teach someone something”,  and invited Noam over to play. After we’d painted for a while, I realized he was actually the one teaching me something, and had to find another way to complete my task. Noam hasn’t quite got the hang of reading and writing yet, so we spelled Pig, Dig, Big, Rig, Wig, Fig, Jig, Zig (and Zag for good measure). It was really fun, and benefited both of us, I think. I recommend rolling the dice if you like a little improv in your daily routine!



Treasure hunt: a work in process. Looking for letters in the sky/ on the ground for Noam’s “found” alphabet!

Posted in "Found objects"/articles, alphabet on December 22, 2016 by Betsy Lahaussois

And this is just the beginning…it is impossible to stop once you find an unexpected letter B in a tree. I might be the one who learns to read in the process!…..





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“Now I know my ABC’s, tell me what you think of me!”

Welcome to my virtual show!

Posted in mixed media, painting on September 12, 2016 by Betsy Lahaussois

I have had a wonderful time in the studio this summer, surrounded/crowded by forty 12×12″plywood panels in different stages of messing around/discovery/recovery. Remi helped me attach some slats to the walls so I could hang them up as I went along, and see in that crucial first glance when you come in the door which ones need more attention, and which are nearly resolved. Sometimes a visitor or a grandchild would paint the first layer, with the understanding that it was destined to disappear under successive layers–thick is good!– unless they fell in love and took it home. I like knowing that their marks are buried there, and might reemerge in some future revision. And you really could go on forever, adding more paint and more collage, sanding the surface back down to discover surprise bursts of color from below, reacting to those marks, adding some more. But today it feels like time to “put them out there”, clean up the studio, and go for a walk!

Here, for better for worse, is “how I spent my summer holidays”!

Happy fall…

Helen has asked if these paintings are for sale. Absolutely! I have had some nice hardwood frames built by a local craftsman which look like this:img_4728

and am prepared to sell the paintings framed….

Lean on fat

Posted in painting on August 7, 2016 by Betsy Lahaussois

The Art2Life Visonary Path came to a close, after an intense and interesting three months, and to encourage the community to keep sharing inspirations and successes and cries for help, Nick created a subscription website, which has recently opened for business. Under a thread called Your Favorite Finishes, I asked if anyone knew a good way to finish a mostly acrylic panel ending with a layer of oil pastels.


I already knew from Googling the question that this is risky territory, because oil pastels never dry completely. (Oh!) Though there is a Sennelier spray that dries the surface enough to make it dust resistant, most people choose to frame oil pastels under glass.

Ignoring the age-old recommendation never to put acrylics (AKA lean) over oil (AKA fat), I went ahead and applied a final layer of matte medium, hoping to encase and stabilize the gooey surface.

Yikes! This was not at all what I had in mind!


Disgusted, I threw it straight into the trash can, but then fished it out again the next morning to post as a warning to my A2L community.

There are always one or two people in a supportive group who chime in with, “but I kind of LIKE the texture of disaster! Could you capitalize on this?”

I often do love textured surfaces. Look at this nice rowboat I photographed on a beach in Puglia a few years ago!


However the peeling on my own piece was NOT beautiful, and I wasn’t willing to muck up my new orbital sander with flaps of goo. But after another night’s sleep, I retrieved it from the garbage can a second time, and went at it with scrapers and gouges, getting back down to a more stable layer. Glued on some bits of Amazon Prime tape (of which I have an embarrassing supply lying around!), and renamed it “My summer of shopping dangerously”! I think that will do for now, and I have put it back on my shelf of works in progress.


What I have learned: if in doubt, just try it anyway! Nothing is precious, and layers of history on a panel sometimes make for interesting surprises.

Painting for painting’s sake

Posted in painting on June 10, 2016 by Betsy Lahaussois

I surprised myself this spring by signing up for an online painting course called Art2Life Creative Visionary Path, taught by Nicholas Wilton and his team. Though I am a little wary of Visionary Paths,  I decided to take the leap after watching a couple of Nick’s promotional tutorials, and finding them fascinating.

I took my supplies list to Poggi in the center of Rome, and filled my shopping cart with such an extravagant pile of paints that Mimmo, the boss, came out of his inner sanctum to greet the big spender. Luckily I had sent Jacques–who doesn’t need to know how expensive “my hobby” is– off to the Ghetto to buy macaroons, but he was back in time to carry the heavy carton to the car. We went on to a lecture, where a new acquaintance asked, “Are you an artist?” Thinking of my whopping paint bill, I was able to answer with confidence, “You bet!”

The course has been everything Nick promised, and the 200-plus participants have been working hard. We had to join Facebook to post our homework, and this worried me a little. I was once a member of Facebook for five minutes, before realizing it was no place for the likes of me, and I didn’t look forward to having to tell everyone in my address book all over again, “No, thank you, I don’t want to be your friend!” (My apologies to anyone I have offended by just ignoring your request–the solution proposed by the support team!) I have to admit FB is a good vehicle for what has turned into an impressive community and support group…

Another few weeks to go, but I thought I would post some of my 30×30 cm panels, which we work on again and again, and which will no longer be recognizable a week from now. Next week’s module, I think, is called Risk, something we have all gotten pretty comfortable with! I may or may not go back to painting ladders and Ikea trays when this is over, but it continues to be an exciting and deeply engaging adventure.

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Rolling the dice

Posted in "Found objects"/articles, mixed media, recycling, stitches, textiles on May 1, 2016 by Betsy Lahaussois

I have just been off on an extraordinary course with Matthew Harris, called From Parts to a Whole. Each of us brought along something with soft and hard elements to deconstruct, play with using “chance operations”, draw around and print with, and finally to make into something else. It was liberating putting aside our usual decision making habits, not to mention media, and taking orders from the dice!

I’d found a couple of cheap plastic cameras at the flea market, and borrowed a set of mechanic’s tools from my grandson for taking them apart. It took all of the first morning to locate and remove the tiny screws,  disassemble, and sort the contents into piles.


Here is a much used “thing” made of several dice-selected camera elements including film cover, film, tiny screws and printed circuits.


After a day or two I got tired of inky fingernails and tiny plastic parts, and started investigating the other “found object” I’d brought along –a friend’s well worn Chinese slippers.



It was clear they had potential–look at the colorful cloth layers making up the shredded sole! I almost hesitated to take such beautiful objects apart.




But the dice said, “DO it!”. Leslie lent me a seam ripper, and friends from neighboring tables offered clippers, pliers, threads and a wicked needle, bandaids (!)….


I distributed the contents of both soles on a well used linen tea towel, and “trapped” them on the surface with rows of running stitch. This–like removing the paint from an old door–always takes much more time than you expected, but I enjoyed the next couple of “down days”, stitching back and forth, listening to the chatter around me, catching whiffs of garlic as Jude made lunch…


As the end approached, Matthew helped me rip off the linen hem still partly visible at the edges–there is a not so fine line between Art Brut and Home Decorating!

I am home now after an extremely interesting five days, looking at the stuff in our recycling bin with a new eye, and eager to give Chance a more decisive role in my art making! Inspired by Richard Serra, I am thinking of assigning an “action” (tear, rumple, print, fold, reverse, etc) to each of the 52 cards in a deck, and just drawing a card next time I get to a creative impasse.

If you have a chance to go to a Matthew Harris workshop, don’t miss it!…