CREATIVE AGING 2017 CONFERENCE with The Creative Center

Last week I was honored to be a workshop leader again at the CREATIVE AGING TRAINING conference under the auspices of The Creative Center, and with help from NEA funding and the NYC Department of Cultural Affairs. The training was held at the historic University Settlement on Eldridge Street in Manhattan.

Studies show that when elder adults are engaged in creative activities, learning and mastering new skills to express themselves, they are healthier physically, and psychologically (“The Creativity and Aging Study: The Impact of Professionally Conducted Cultural Programs on Older Adults,” 2006, Gene D. Cohen, M.D., Ph.D) At the 2014 NCAA conference, Marc Agronin, M.D., geriatric psychiatrist, upset the myth of our American culture that marginalizes older adults, saying said that there are strengths in aging: neuroplasticity, maturity, and creativity, saying, “Not in spite of age, but because of aging we become more creative.” The Creative Center’s Creative Aging Training gathers artists and administrators in creative aging fields together to discuss art programming best practices in hospitals, senior centers and nursing homes.

I taught a hands on inkblot class to the 40-plus participants. Inkblots are the perfect intro to art-making and art materials for experts and amateur artists alike, as they provide a satisfying one-time art-making experience, but can also provide enough fodder for months of creativity. Inkblots are beautiful and evocative artworks alone, but can also be made into a variety of other things: masks, cabinets of curiosity, puppets, paper dolls, paper theater, monsters, totems, maps, starships, planets, insects. They can be jumping off points for additional drawing, writing and conversation.

After a powerpoint full of ideas on all the things you can do and make with inkblots, we made some–lots of them:

While they were drying, we played the Inkblot Game, where participants divide into groups with a stack of already dry inkblots that I brought in, and question cards, and take turns answering silly or thought provoking questions about the inkblots: “The inkblots are pets in a pet store. You have to pick a pet who will get along with your difficult persian cat Elvira. What pet do you choose? What is it?” Or, “You are having tea with the queen. The inkblots are the dishes served to you. What are you having? Is the queen trying to court you or kill you?!”

Then when are inkblots are dry, we draw what we see. This step easily bypasses anyone’s fear of making art–“I can’t draw a straight line!” as you are telling them to draw around what they see in their inkblot already, and then color it in:

A mother monkey holding her political active cat child…

Tina, the administrator of the wonderful Artsy Smartsy, a midwest based organization that provides art making activities for 700 seniors a month, drawing into her beautiful vertical inkblot.

Some participants did ink blowing–where they blew the wet ink with straws to make interesting asymmetrical tendrils.

Drawing and thinking…this artist did some interesting things with multiple folds, trying for the intricate multiples of Bruce Conner.

The Myth of the Tongue Cut Sparrow

Kuniyoshi did a woodcut of a famous japanese folk tale of the legend of the tongue cut sparrow. I am sort of fascinated with it–the print and the story–after I got to see a copy of the print at the NY Armory Print Fair this past fall.

The story goes like this–actually I thought it was slightly different but have been reading more and this version makes more sense:

One morning, a poor woodcutter went into the mountains to cut timber and saw an injured sparrow. He took it back to his home to nurse it back to health. His wife, who wasn’t so nice, was annoyed that he would waste time and food on the sparrow. The old man, undated, continued caring for the bird.

One day, the recovering sparrow ate all of their meager supply of rice. The wife was so angry that she cut out the bird’s tongue and chased it away.

The woodcutter went searching for the bird in the mountains where he had originally found it. Other sparrows greeted him  kindly and led him to his friend, the little sparrow he saved. The sparrow was a wealthy member of his community, and treated him to food and drink. They visited and talked and laughed. When it was time for the woodcutter to take his leave, the sparrow offered him a large basket or a small basket as a thank you gift. The elderly woodcutter chose the small basket. When he arrived home, he opened the basket and found treasure. The not-very-nice-wife, hearing of the existence of a larger basket, ran to the sparrow’s home in the hope of getting more treasure for herself. She was given the larger basket upon her demand, but was warned not to open it before getting home.

She of course opened the basket on the mountain path on the way home. The basket was filled with all the ills of the world, and were unleashed upon her and the whole world, Pandora’s Box-like.

The version of the story I heard at the print fair was a little different. The woodcutter found the injured sparrow (the cut tongue WAS the injury), and nursed it back to health though his wife didn’t like that. They took it together to the sparrow’s home. He was a prince, as it happened, and offered them a small basket and a large basket. The woodcutter liked the small basket, but the greedy wife made him take the larger. They struggled with the basket on the way down the mountain (they were warned not to open it till home, and the wife wanted to open it earlier and they struggled). In the struggle, the basket opens, unleashing all the sins of the world. But in that story, the elderly beneficent woodcutter is harmed as well. Didn’t make as much sense.

ANYWAY, the whole point of my going on about it is that I was reading about it on line and found these fantastic dolls depicting the characters from the story. Apparently there’s a tradition in Japan of making these dolls and tableaus for them to live in:

I can’t give you provenance for the dolls because I don’t know–they were at an auction site and the maker wasn’t listed, nor the date of their construction. But I thought they were too magical not to share!

MUSEUM VISIT: A Color, Punch Out and Play Set!

They’re HERE! My author copies of MUSEUM VISIT: A Color, Punch Out and Play Set have arrived! Super excited!Museum Visit is another high quality product from Pomegranate Publishing like Tea Party: A Color Punch Out and Play Set. Their production standards are extremely exacting, which means they really made me look good–the product design is so lovely (Thanks Pomegranate Designer Carey Hall!), the paper quality and printing are beautiful. SO–I have been playing with it!

Like Tea Party: A Color, Punch Out and Play Set, there are stage sets to set up, in this case, three galleries, and eight card stock pages of colorable museum collectibles to set up.

I have been using my new set of Copic Sketch markers that my brother gave me, but you can use anything to color with–any marker, watercolors, colored pencils, crayons. You can color artwork in frames, and also create your own artwork in blank frames.

The boxed set features:

-a folding play “stage set” with three 16 x 12 inch gallery scenes to color

-eight cardstock pages of colorable collectibles, armor, statues, jewels, paintings, natural history objects and more

-a four page booklet with illustrated instructions, with info about “wonder rooms,” the history of museums, and thoughts about curating your own exhibition.

Museum Visit is available at Pomegranate Publishing:

To kick off 2017 Pomegranate has offered me a special artist promo code to share with friends and fans. Enter PEOT15 at checkout and get 15% savings on the products I have created with Pomegranate. This is a standing offer and does not expire, it just requires a minimum purchase of $10.95.

A Coloring Book Designed for ME by LILA

Inside the front cover…

One of the nicest things that happened to me this year, and as a direct result of making coloring books for parents and kids to color together is that my friend Lila (age 6) designed a coloring book just for me. I am including three pictures from the book here as well as some of my coloring efforts. Thanks, Lila! And grandmother Carolyn, too!

My coloring, with the Copic markers my brother recently gifted me with…

Lila in the rain with puddles…



I am so excited to reveal the new video trailer for LET’S COLOR TOGETHER: SECRET WORLDS (Sourcebooks) by Daniel Levy Music, with voiceovers from Grace Katsivelos and Ada Simon and music “The Raven’s Rock” courtesy of the amazing generosity of the band LUNASA:

This new book brings together face-to-face coloring and all your favorite fantasies about the tiny magical creatures who inhabit the world around us. Sit down with your favorite coloring companion and dream about the fairies, gnomes, talking squirrels and Borrowers, even, who might live inside that intriguing hole in a tree trunk, underneath flowers, or in majestic underwater palaces. Like LET’S COLOR TOGETHER, this book features spreads specifically designed for two people to color and enjoy at once.

Available to order now from Amazon or Powells or Barnes and Noble



GIVEAWAY WINNER of Tea Party Play Set and Colored Pencils!

Congratulations, congratulations to Patricia Hruby Powell, who has won the giveaway drawing for a copy of Tea Party: A Color, Punch Out and Play Set and the beautiful colored pencils so generously donated by Pomegranate! Hurray! 

GIVEAWAY!! Enter to win a TEA PARTY: A Color, Punch Out and Play Set AND Colored Pencils!

ENTER TO WIN A DRAWING of a copy of TEA PARTY: A COLOR, PUNCH OUT AND PLAY SET in time for holiday fun!
Want to win? Here’s how:
Just Leave a comment below to be entered to win a drawing for a play set! That’s it!
The drawing will be held on December 14, 2016, and one winner will be chosen by a computerized random number generator.

With Tea Party: A Color Punch Out and Play Set, you can create your own tea parties by coloring four fancy teapots with matching teacups, napkins, utensils, and an array of tempting tea treats including scones, cucumber sandwiches and fairy cakes). Set up your tea party in front of one of the three color-able tea settings: Afternoon Tea, English Manor House Tea, and Tea with Furry Friends, and invite your friends to play along!

This boxed set features:

img_2507-copy-A folding play “stage set” with three 6 x 12 inch tea party scenes to color

-8 cardstock pages of colorable teapots with stands, cups with stands, saucers, lace napkins, a sugar bowl and creamer with stands, a serving plate, utensils and delectable tea faretea-party-a-color-punch-out-and-play-set-12

-4-page booklet with illustrated instructions. The booklet includes some fun history of tea, a bit about manners, and information on various tea meals and tea foods, as well as a simple scone recipe!

Available at to buy from (click these live links) Barnes and Noble, Powell’s Books, Pomegranate, and various museum stores and tea shops.



The winner of TWO COPIES of my new coloring book from Sourcebooks, LET’S COLOR TOGETHER: SECRET WORLDS  A Shareable Coloring Book for Parents and Kids is….

sw_1-copydrum roll please….


Congratulations, Jennifer! TWO copies of SECRET WORLDS will be wending their way to you!











SECRET WORLDS is available where books are sold, including Amazon or Powells or Barnes and Noble.


My wonderful fans and friends send me pictures of their coloring efforts, and I am happy to share them with you! This is just a few to start, some from adults, some from kids. I am honored to receive these pictures and treasure them! And I hope that these books can help bring kids and adults together.

Just today, a friend told me that he daughter and grandson color together and that having exclusive “mom time” and the activity has a “calming effect” on the little boy. And my doctor wrote me to say that she and her teenage daughter spent the weekend coloring together after I gave her a copy of Let’s Color Together, and while they colored, they talked and talked about things they had not been talking about but needed to.


Coloring by the director of services at U of Utah Hospital Patient Family Housing!


Coloring by Lila!


Coloring by Lila and Ganny


Coloring by Pat, who introduced me to GEL PENS: Thanks Pat!


More beautiful coloring by Pat


Coloring by Deirdre!


To Lila, from Ganny…


LetsColorTogetherBook_buttonAll of these coloring pages are from LET’S COLOR TOGETHER: A SHAREABLE COLORING BOOK FOR PARENTS AND KIDS!

Available at Amazon:
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Barnes and Noble:
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