love letters

It’s a sunny day in Tucson, and the sky is full of clouds, blue, and birds.

st augustines march 2015

My new book project(s) are coming along really nicely; a third volume of Contemporary Geometric Beadwork that I’m not promoting yet, but am working on, and a completely new project on love, sustainability, and process that can be seen at the Love Letters book blog.

There is a new entry up now, in fact. If you are interested in the project, follow the blog and you’ll get occasional updates. I’m not taking pre-orders yet (other than the dozen I took to open it) but when we are close to press time, this year or next, I’ll let you know.

Also, I realize that I forgot to show the photo of the new garden bed last time. Still all in progress of course. But getting very good.

the best thing ever outdoor bed at cooper st

love letters portraits

I work on portraits for the new book every day now, using words, sketching in my little books or doing digital painting from, on top of, or not from photographs. It’s good for me, and I learn a little more each day about what lines mean, and how to use fewer of them.

This morning’s subject, the handsome William K. Hartmann, explorer of worlds. This is the look on his face that I love best. For the book, my final piece will probably end up on a field of space and stars. I’m not sure. Digital pastels (and a filter that turns the surface to a canvas texture first) on a digital photo.

hartmann sketch mar 2, kate mckinnon, canvas filter and oil pastels on a digital image, 2015

For every person involved or profiled or whatever in the book I am making portraits; in some cases actual action figures. Things are really moving now; highly improbable things are happening, all of them good.

And this is digital brush-painting and other manipulation on top of a photo that I took of my son, Evan, in the last week we lived in Boston.

evan by kate

This is Michael Pope, from a digitally manipulated crop of a photo by Kyle Cassidy.
Lots of brushes and filters and lights and digital paint and oil pastels.

Michael Pope by Kate McKinnon from a photo by Kyle Cassidy, digital image manipulation and cropping

I’m not sure what to call what I am doing beyond making portraits, trying to show you what I see in each of these people, at each of these times.

another time, another place…

It’s so different to capture real life, rather than real life remembered.

I’ve been so full of living this past month that there wasn’t any of me left to make more than mental notes; cosmic scraps of paper that all just seem to say “best day ever”.

Let me try to catch up a bit.

Michael Pope and Kate McKinnon, altered snippet of a photo by Kyle Cassidy
snip of a photo by Kyle Cassidy, Pope and Kate

What a whirl it’s been. The party is over, the gowns are back on their racks. The tent stands folded, quiet yet somehow still quivering, in the Barbie Coach. I’ve been to St. Louis, been back home, and I think winter must be over here, because Orangelina woke up two days ago, two months earlier than usual.

I am so happy to see her, of course. She’ll be orange and gold again soon. And yeah, it’s really easy to be sure it’s her; she has a scar on her side from where she battled a space dragon. That’s my explanation, anyway. Look at that sweet little smile.


I went and got her some worms, but she’s still waking up, I think. Not quite ready for breakfast.

I am presuming that she woke up because winter is over, but it’s possible that she just felt the thrill in the air. Every thing that happened during party week is still rippling out through our bodies and minds. Yet it also seems to be far away; another time, another place.

All the things I carry with me
And all the things I left behind
And all the things that wait to meet me
Hover in the air tonight

We had an astonishing time this year. Kyle Cassidy came out from Philadelphia to work his usual magic. Events, weather, and lovely people conspired to create a beautiful experience.

His portraits shone.

AJ Reardon by Kyle Cassidy

AJ Reardon, in front of Mark and Marcia’s pretty Airstream.
Below, Doriot Lair.

Doriot Lair by Kyle Cassidy

I’ll have a full gallery to show soon. I’ve been working on quite a few photosets in background, it’s shocking really how many. They seem to be very important to me lately, photographs, and they take a lot of time to keep sorted. Heck, I’m still working on the NYC photo album from last summer… it’s nuts.

I’m not concerned about what happens when, though. This is new for me.

I’ve really been behaving differently since I finished the last book, doing the things I want to do and when I want to do them, living only on the income from book sales, trying to pay attention to the moments flying by. It’s kind of amazing.

I feel lucky, and I feel free at last.

I am moving at my own pace in every way (and it’s slower than I expected it would be); thinking, feeling, training hard, writing, working on learning what painting is; what images are made of. So far, I’m still digital, but I find that it’s a perfect medium for me to learn how few or how many lines define a moment, a scene, capture a tumble of hair.

kate mckinnon

My friend Gail said an interesting thing a few months ago, that she’s been holding back as a human being, as an artist. I feel the same. We’ve been doing what needs to be done, and keeping ourselves in check for the benefit of our children, our image, society, our comfort zones…whatever. She’s right, of course. And it gets tiring, holding back. I just can’t bear it anymore.

It’s possible anyway that it’s no longer necessary; our children have grown, our people love us, and people can take us or leave us. I don’t want to be around the incurious, the cruel; I want to be with the people who feel responsible for the quality and breadth of their own lives.

I feel comfortable enough being judged by the company I keep. It’s a self-regulating mechanism, because if I am not doing my best work, then the quality of my associations will suffer. People with some fucking standards appreciate people with some fucking standards. And that’s really a deep sort of truth.

Kim Van Antwerp and the Mailbox by Katea cherished association, my friend Kim Van Antwerp, helping me decorate the mailbox for our long-time carrier Mike’s retirement. 

I really feel like my work as a writer or an artist is just one set of reflections, a sort of waterfall out the other side of my real life. People ask me, “what do you write”, and it’s a question that is always odd to me, because I just write what is happening, which is connecting with people, moving upward and onward and forward and through. I may be on a topic of anything (metals, beads, travel, love) but the process is the same: live life, notice the things that other people are skipping over, write.

In a way, I am like the water that flows between the stones, or the dendrites that connect information in the brain, or the plasma, the conducting fluid. I stretch myself between people or ideas, and try to hold a bridge long enough for a flow; if the things I am bridging are meant to connect, they will.

The night of the main party was a perfect night, with a huge moon and a million stars. There was both a gentleness and wildness in our hearts, and connection was easy.

Rivkah Raven Wood by Kyle Cassidy
Rivkah Raven Wood, in the Barbie Coach during the party

Kate Stern by Kyle Cassidy
Kate Stern, photo Kyle Cassidy, beadwork Daria Tittenberger

Kellner flew home to Tucson from Crete, and Michael Pope flew out from Brooklyn.

kellner and pope by Robin Douglas
Kellner and Pope, photo by Robin Douglas

Kyle had flown home by the time the above photo was snapped (as had Doriot) as Kellner missed the actual party, and arrived the day after. The night after, actually; he walked out of the darkness, and discovered me about to fall asleep in the outdoor bed, with Pope hovering around, chatting me up, trying to keep me awake; he was in on the surprise.

Kellner and Kate by Robin

The intensity of our times together always leave the sensitive among us in a state of both grace and unrest. I spend a good amount of myself in the weeks after the events catching; people often feel overloaded, or kind of lost, because the experience can be so intense, so beautiful, that it can be a bit disconcerting. I try not to fall into atoms myself until everyone else is caught, is safe, until the last of the first ripples of effect have faded.

Things are settling in now, but I wouldn’t say settled. We are all still sparking; and some of us are making life changes. Some of us are coming together to do new work; more on this as it turns real.

But I think I’m going to stick around in Tucson for a while… see what happens.

How soon we fool ourselves
How slow we tread
Astral planes, collide head on
And on and on we glide
As if forever

There is so much more to say, but time has passed, or it’s too intense, or the things I might say belong to others, to say instead.

I am filled with love, feeling fierce, and absolutely wild, like an animal.

Key West

I’m down at the edge of my home continent, teaching for a long weekend.
It’s beautiful.

key west boat ride

key west fort zachary

Fort Zachary

Top photo, the Westin dock at Sunset Key, photo by Marjorie.
Above two shots, Ft. Zachary State Park beach, with the afternoon clouds just rolling in. Below, a detail of a fish on an art car.

key west fish on an art car

I visited the Hemingway estate, with the six-toed cats.
It was glorious, depressing, poignant.

key west hemingway house

Hemingway women

key west hemingway house 2

key west hemingway catz pool

There was an entirely satisfactory number of cats, evenly distributed.

key west hemingway cats key west hemingay bedroom

Princess Six Toes and Charlie Chaplin by Samuel Mendez
Painting of Princess Six Toes and Charlie Chaplin by Samuel Mendez; I bought postcards of it for several of my catloving friends.

The retreat went really well. We had a good crowd of interested and interesting people.

key west 2015

We had so much fun, in fact, that we are all doing it again next year, and doing it with Marcia DeCoster and Beki Haley as well. Whee!

I spent a lot of time walking around the neighborhoods. The houses reminded me of New Orleans, very colourful, with lots of porches and verandas.

Key west 3

carries house key west

Plenty of haint blue porch ceilings as well, discouraging the spirits, and the gardens are nuts.

Orchid and more haint blue   haint blue ceilings and wild orchids

key west orchids in carries garden

This is Jean, one of our organizers, in her daughter Carrie’s garden.
Carrie’s son Andre started planting exotic palms when he was 8.

key west jean in carries yard

Andre lives in my dream house, at the end of their yard, past the pool.

key west andres rooms

Today, we finished up the workshop midday, and then a group of us went on a boat over to the Westin resort on Sunset Key to have lunch at their lovely restaurant on the water.

key west sunset key westin

It was perfect weather; sunny and clear, with a cool breeze.

Kate at Sunset Key

Roosters and chickens are feral and everywhere. I can’t get enough of them.
This one was taking a standing siesta.

Key west rooster siesta

A lot of them hang out at Sandy’s Cuban Cafe.

All the roosters love Sandys

In addition to pelicans and seagulls (which I see very few of from my side of the island, apparently they stick by the fishing boats) the sky is full of wheeling hawks and turkey vultures; the Navy lookouts at the old Fort Zachary are loaded with goats.

goat lookout key west

key west navy goats

Art and colour are everywhere, things are nice and laid back. I look forward to coming back and exploring further.

key west lights in a hotel lobby Key West tub with a view

Key West antique shop with dog

I’m looking forward to checking out the restaurant Blue Heaven tomorrow, saying goodbye to the rest of the crew, and then I’m back off to Tucson tomorrow to keep getting ready for the Three Day Party.

sunrise with technology

Tucson, Arizona, USA, Terra, 7 am, two views.

sunrise with plastic owl

sunrise with technology: Starwalk app on IPhone5


The Starwalk app has become so beautiful, with the visual of the horizon and the view into deep space. I like knowing that Capricorn is rising, and that Mercury and Venus are in the same pierce in space.

I am just beginning to understand the structure of what is possible when things line up. I think intuitively, we all know that getting things into a line is efficient. Some people understand the geometry of lineups very well; they are slick on the billiard table, they make astonishing art that demonstrates the power of perspective.

I leave for Key West at tomorrow morning’s sunrise; Tucson is beautiful now, and so it will be there as well.

I feel a bit like a billiard ball myself, lining up with this, and then that.

kyle cassidy private shoots

BTW the Three Day Party in Tucson is lining up in its own way to be pretty spectacular. If you want a slot with Kyle Cassidy (all of my costume closet and Barbie Coach and gorgeous models and macro studios are at your disposal) please book in now. We can accommodate only three more private appointments, and you can come on either Thursday, Feb 5, or Friday, Feb 6.

re entry

What a tumble of weeks I’ve had. It’s handy that I flew home at almost the exact turn of the New Year, so I can know easily how long I’ve been here, alone. Eleven days. I miss the cats and boys, of course, but I can’t stand Midwestern winters; I stay in Tucson at this time of year, or find someplace warmer. Any one of my family who wants to join me is free to to so. I am constantly encouraging people to come to Tucson, hang out in the garden.


Along those lines, I’ll be in Florida this weekend, not a place I generally penetrate except for rocket launches. I have strong motivation, though; I’m going to scope out Key West, which I’ve heard so much about.

My pleasant excuse for the visit is that I’m going down to lead a weekend workshop, which is unusual for me these days. I love teaching and would do it more, but even at this point in the game, people want so many specifics.

It’s against my nature to be disingenuous (or I should say more accurately that I do not enjoy being so) and predicting what I will do with a room full of people I have not yet met can be nothing else. Like so many people, with so many things, I’m comfortable with the work but find the structure an impediment.

Yum Yum Juice

Bri gave me a BlendTec blender for Christmas, and I’ve been freaking out on it in exactly the same way as with a first crock pot. I’ve never had a food processor and so suddenly being able to make silky soups and put things like spinach or hunks of fresh ginger in my smoothies is a giant step up.

This one in the cup has a whole orange, an apple, peeled and cored, spinach, kale, avocado, cashews, almond milk and pineapple. It tastes like fruit and ginger, beautiful. And I love the fresh bright spring green colour, so different from green juice in the jug.

It’s one of those gifts that just changes life.

The weather has been lovely here, mostly 60s and sunny, with some cooler rainy days in the mix. Last week, going to buy a carload of fresh fruits and veggies to play with in my Blendtec, the Miata had a parking lot romance in the always-reliable Safeway parking lot. It was brief but intense, as most grocery store romances are.

parking lot playdate

If I were in the market for a lover, I’d go find one at the Safeway; you can see everything about people in there. The food they are buying, the way they are being… no one can hide who they are at the market unless they hide for a living. The light is brutal, too, that high fluorescent nightmare, people are revealed to be simply who they are. I like to think I come off well in the market, or at least that I come off as who I actually am.

This location (Broadway and Campbell) is frequented by a wide variety of interesting people; they come from the varied downtown and mid-town neighborhoods; the barrios, the Victorians, the University, the mid-century zones like mine. I love it not only for the neighborhood peoples, but for the fire trucks, which are always full of handsome firemen.

Firemen love to cook. I think at least two fire stations shop at this Safeway. (Just as I typed that, amusingly, I heard morning reveille from the fire station down by the Doubletree.)

In the parking lot, there is always at least one vintage muscle car to die for; this one, a Ford Torino from the mid-60s was in perfect, original condition outside. I got lucky and met the owner. For whatever reason (I was just tired, I think) I didn’t ask his name. But I did learn that he bought it in ’67, when it was still a baby.

Check him out, he’s as groovy as his car. If I see him again, I’ll find out more.

ford torino owner

When I posted the photo on Facebook, my friends asked, ooh, what would their babies look like? I was like, maybe a pale blue 240Z?



I like being here right now. I don’t wish that I was somewhere else. I don’t wish I was someone else.

I think that by the time everyone arrives for the February fun (book launch party, Tucson shows, photoshoot with Kyle Cassidy) I will be more than ready.

In so many ways.