So I bought this painting today.


Last spring, when my friend, Irish fiddler Tom Robison, told me he was making a crankie, I had no idea what he was talking about. Then he sent me this link to Meg Chittenden’s “The Wheel” performance, and I immediately knew I had to make a crankie.

Basically, crankies are like those “movies” you made in grade school where you poke a couple of cardboard tubes through holes in a cardboard box with a “TV screen” window cut out of it, then reel a scroll (which you’ve painstakingly illustrated in crayon) from one tube to the other, creating a moving narrative.

Those were cool! And crankies are even cooler! You can add a backlight for added drama and contrivances (such as crank handles with knobs!) to make the scroll crank more smoothly. Apparently, moving panoramas have been around a very long time, which I learned more about from Sue Truman’s Cranky Factory web page. To my delight, it seems that making and performing them has emerged in the folk music community, where people create beautiful pictorial scrolls (often set to story songs) and show them with live acoustic music. Some add layers and shadow puppetry, and some are quite simple.

I guess there are even cranky festivals cropping up all over the place, where you can see people performing their crankies and music live. What could be more enticing to the folk art lover? I can’t imagine.

Anyway, it took me a while (let’s say a year?) to get around to building my first real crankie box. (Last year I made a test mini-cranky in an old SLR camera. It held some challenges and my illustration was a little bit half-assed, but it satisfied my crankie fever, at least temporarily.) My test crankie was to my original tune, “The Angel of the Ukulele Cabaret,” performed by Seattle ukulele busking legend, Howlin Hobbit.

This spring I was teaching a ukulele class for a group of 9th graders and, desperate for ways to keep them interested, I tossed out making a crankie as an activity idea. In the spirit of “if you build it they will come” I brought black paper, glue sticks, scissors and a roll of baking parchment to the classroom before I even had my cranky box made.

I asked the students to brainstorm words to the Barenaked Ladies tune, “If I Had a Million Dollars” by providing five or six answers to each of the questions, “What would you do if you had a billion dollars, superpowers, or magical powers?” Each student picked their two or three most visual answers and set to work drawing and cutting out their segment of the scroll. My only advice was to make things big and bold, since it would be shown in silhouette, and to include some kind of continuous horizon line through their illustration to help tie together the motion of the story. They did an amazing job and I loved how their art turned out! (It’s shown later in post.)

Meanwhile, while the students were on Spring Break, I got busy and made the crankie box. David stood by, handing me power tools, making suggestions, and generally tempering my impetuous nature. For the first box we made, we used a dresser drawer (amazingly, I found a dresser for $5 at a thrift store!). I loosely followed the instructions provided at Sue Truman’s Cranky Factory web page, but simplified it a little. We just cut a window in the bottom of a drawer with a saber saw, drilled some holes to insert dowels, and assembled it with screws.

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The dresser drawer box was my “test drive.” I envisioned using a suitcase, but I didn’t want to ruin the suitcase if I messed it up. Here’s the test drive (to me singing part of the Louis Jordan song, “There Ain’t Nobody Here But Us Chickens.”

It worked pretty well, but the black paper shapes did not stick to parchment paper. Nothing sticks to parchment paper! Luckily, I had read that clear adhesive shelf paper can add strength to cranky scrolls, so I added clear shelf paper to the students’ illustrations and then lifted them right off of the parchment paper and transferred them to tracing paper (which worked ok, but I’m still looking for a backing I like better. Some people use Tyvek.).

I learned that it’s much easier to apply the adhesive shelf paper if you don’t try to do too big of a piece. I started using vertical pieces, 6″ or so wide, (this tip thanks to the inspiring crankie artist, Dejah Leger check her out!) overlapping them slightly, all my wrinkle worries were over. I adhered the students’ scenes to the tracing paper scroll, combining them with my own additional scenes to make one big scroll. I used a credit card to apply Yes! paste to the backs of areas that had quite a lot of black space. Otherwise, it didn’t take too much glue, since the shelf paper helps hold everything down.

Here’s the finished suitcase crankie, with my students singing their Million Dollar parody. (There’s another version of the song on my youtube channel where the kids are cranking and I’m playing the ukulele, but I enjoy hearing them sing it by themselves. 🙂

Now, to get back to the studio and finish up those chickens! After that, I’m going to try a different style of paper in an even smaller crankie box that I’m hoping to make in an old Emerson radio case. And Tom and I are putting our heads together to host some type of community crankie event in Bozeman soon. Stay tuned…


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I got a Graco Pack and Play playard for my new grandson and the mobile that came with it is super boring!

When my own daughter was a baby, I made a makeshift mobile for her using some chopsticks as cross supports, sewing thread for hanging, and triangles of cereal box cardboard covered with bright gift wrap paper. The triangle shapes made the pictures face her when she was looking up. (I did not hang it above her crib, just in case my home-made contraption might fall and entangle her. I hung it in the living room where I could keep an eye on her.)

I now have more tools at my disposal, so I whipped up a conversion kit for the playpen mobile. You wouldn’t need fancy tools to do something like this. You could get by with plain paper (with bold marks on it), scissors and some adhesive tape (pretty sure that’s what I used my first time around). Obviously, don’t leave a baby unattended with anything you’ve cobbled together like this. That said, since it’s paper, it hangs easily and makes baby’s view much more interesting. Here’s how I made it.

Some other means of closure would probably work. Keep safety in mind, though!

This was to work on the pre-installed velcro that comes on the Graco Pack and Play mobile. You could probably attach via some other means, though again, keep safety in mind, and don’t leave baby unattended with anything that might endanger them in any way. If your pictures were on your triangles, you’d be done at this point. I wanted to add some existing pictures to mine though:

This process could be simplified by just drawing on the middle third of some paper triangles (probably wider ones), hanging them up (safely) and calling it done! I was retrofitting an existing mobile with some laminated pictures I already had.

The Brownpaper Christmas AlphabetIt’s a pretty freakin special Christmas, folks. I just became a Granny! Yes, that’s my name. You can call me Granny.

To celebrate the occasion of receiving a perfect grandchild, I published my first children’s book, The Brownpaper Christmas Alphabet. You can order the paperback on Amazon, or download the Kindle edition, if you’re feeling especially rushed and/or environmentally conscious.

It started when I bought some blocks to draw on at Wren’s baby shower. When I drew a vole in a vest playing violin, I knew I had to do a whole alphabet.


Rather than drawing on the blocks, though, I thought it would be nice to have something a little more enduring, so I turned to the pile of Town and Country grocery bags waiting patiently by the kitchen stairs for their second chance at utility and, thanks to my wonderful paper cutter, lopped them into 5” squares. If I’d made them any larger I’d never have been done by Christmas!

Marla Goodman mouse illustrations

Then I got out my Prismacolors and just went to town. Being a frail old granny and all, my hands got pretty sore from all the coloring, and I had to take a rest for a few days when the thumb on my right hand staged a full-on protest.

The more I drew, the more I wanted to draw, and I kept thinking of more and more tricky details to add to the pictures.

If you buy the book, don’t stop looking when you get to the end of the word list, because there are way more hidden alphabet words than I listed!

I kept it a semi-secret from Wren, although I’m sure she knew I was up to something, and it probably was a bit of a giveaway when I texted her, “Are anthropomorphic mice a good thing?” She said they were, so that just added fuel to the fire.

Mouse dancing illustration by Marla Goodman

Can a mouse have a gas range and a black and white TV? It turns out, yes. I just had a blast living in my no-rules mouse world for a month, while listening to a brilliant Mil Nicholson recording of Great Expectations on Librivox.

Great Expectations indeed! The expected heir did indeed arrive two days ago, and I was much too excited to wait and give the book as a Christmas gift. Now, I can hardly wait to start on his Christmas gift for next year! And the year after!


This aspen tree palette knife painting project for senior citizens was done at The Gallatin Rest Home, which cares for very elderly people, many with significant health issues.

Preface about this “cookie cutter” project approach. I have found that many adults feel apprehensive about making art and enjoy themselves more if they are given some kind of structure to begin with. I’ve also noticed that using non-traditional tools and techniques helps participants overcome the fear of “messing up.” (For senior citizens, having diminished dexterity can be very frustrating, so using tools they haven’t tried before circumvents expectations of how the tool should work.)

I chose aspen trees since their shape is simple and distinctly recognizable. Fall is a nice time to talk about bright, falling leaves which are beautiful in their imperfection.

  1. Since my class time is only an hour, I prepped my canvases with a background color to dry overnight. (I used a credit card and a rag to create a smooth gradation from robin’s egg blue to navy blue. –Note on the example photos, I had first tried white to blue to black, but I decided brighter blue was better– It didn’t matter if they were perfect because the background recedes behind the trees in the finished painting.)
  2. I started with short (5-minutes or less) demonstration of using the palette knife to apply white trunks and branches, black shadows and knotholes, and blobby yellow leaves. (This is for the seniors’ benefit, but also for the helpers, who need an understanding of the process in order to assist the seniors.)
  3. I passed out example images of aspen trees that had been painted with a palette knife, making sure that people understood that their painting didn’t need to match.
  4. We gave each painter a plastic palette knife and blobs of white and black paint (about the size of a quarter) on a paper plate.
  5. I demonstrated how to drag the palette knife downwards to create a straight tree trunk, then pull the branches upward.
  6. I showed how adding black along one side of each trunk creates a shaded side, then added black and gray dots and flecks to look like knot holes and bark.
  7. I gave each artist a wet paper towel (baby wipes work great) to clean their palette knife.
  8. When trunks were done, I gave each artist two shades for leaves: a darker ochre, and a bright lemon yellow. I showed how to dab yellow on to create the impression of leaves, and talked about how some leaves might be falling, or already on the ground.

The project took about 30 minutes for each person to do. For some older seniors, this is a plenty long time to sustain attention. For younger seniors or people with fewer physical challenges or more time, I would provide some photos of aspen trees for inspiration. The painters could have painted their own gradient backgrounds using a credit card or piece or card stock if the class had met twice (so there would be time for the background to dry).

Helping seniors paint: If you’re a helper with this activity, here are some examples of how you can help.


Getting started:

  • Sometimes people have a hard time getting started, so I’m not shy about demonstrating that first line. If I see someone who looks like they don’t know how to begin, I ask, Would you like me to make the first trunk so you can see how it works? If I get no answer, I just do it and then load up the palette knife and casually hand it to the person. Sometimes I may point to an area on the canvas and say, It looks like this would be a good place to start.
  • People often lose momentum, so helping them continue and complete a work is a delicate art. Here are some ideas to help them be attentive without nagging:

Talk about the tools and the paint:

  • Have you ever painted with a palette knife before? It’s quite different from a brush, isn’t it? You don’t have to worry about the details.
  • That white paint looks nice and bright on the blue.
  • I see you have mixed some black paint in the white. That reminds me of tree bark.
  • Do you want some more white paint? Here’s some more. I’ll load up your tool for you.
  • Load up their palette knife with paint, repeatedly, if needed!

Talk about what they have done so far, and encourage them to keep going:

  • “You see you painted one trunk. Do you want to make another one? Here’s some more white.”
  • “I see you made a nice, bold white line. What do you think it needs now?”
  • I see you made a leaf. If you want more, you could dab some more paint on.

Countering negativity:

Always resist the urge to talk about “good” or “bad” artists or art.

  • Please, never say in front of any artist of any age, “I’m a bad artist” or “You’re a good artist.” There is never a need to bring up the topic of self-judgment, even if you’re judging yourself. Keep it light and easygoing. Think more in terms of, “We’re experimenting here, and anything goes.”
  • If a participant is saying “Mine looks messy” you don’t have to contradict them. You can quietly let them have their opinion, or if you feel they want reassurance, you can say “To me it looks lively!” or “I’ve noticed when I walk in the forest that leaves do look messy sometimes. I love windy days in the fall. How about you?”
  • Again, you don’t have to tell the artist, “It’s good.” It’s not your job to judge their art. Instead, encourage them by saying something more like, “It’s adventurous of you to experiment with this messy technique!” or just validate their feelings by saying, “You like things to be tidy, don’t you?” or “This is kind of a messy process, isn’t it?”
  • Although most participants enjoyed this activity, one said over and over, “I can’t paint my way out of a wet paper bag.” In this case, I just joked, “Well, you never know!”
  • Unlike small children, many older people have spent a lifetime being judged and criticized, so don’t feel discouraged if some people come with “baggage” about art. Just congratulate them for touching art supplies and thank them for joining you on an adventure, knowing that this sensory and cognitive experience is valuable, and it’s not up to you to “fix” their attitude.

I always enjoy the end of a workshop, when people see what others have done, how different and individual each piece is, and how we can celebrate each different approach. Participants always seem to leave feeling good about the works as a group.



aspen tree trunks


Having never learned to read music as a young person, I always wished for a mnemonic system for reading music that made sense to me. The illustration above might look complex, but to me it’s simpler than memorizing a bunch of different mnemonics for each of the two staves (which look basically alike and are connected in one grand repeating pattern).

Maybe this won’t work for everyone (or even for me!), but I had to give it a try. I give you two all-purpose mnemonics that work for the both lines AND the spaces on the bass and treble staves. One for going up the staff – Fucking All Cows Eat Grass By Daylight – and one for descending – Found Dead Because Got Evil Cat And.

No matter where you start, on a line or a space, in the Bass Staff or the Treble, these two mnemonics provide quick reference for the ascending or descending lines or spaces.

For example, if you start at the F (F3) on the Bass Staff, (the line with the two dots of the Bass Clef symbol on each side) you should be able to name the lines, going upward or downward, using the appropriate mnemonic. (Fucking All Cows Eat Grass By Daylight goes up, Found Dead Because Got Evil Cat And goes down)

Or if you’ve memorized one or two note positions on each staff (I’m shooting for the B in the center of the Treble Clef and the D in the center of the Bass Clef) you would start in the middle of the mnemonic on whatever letter you’re at, and repeat as needed. (e.g. if counting downward from the D in the center of the Bass Staff, you’d think Dead Because Got Evil Cat And Found Dead…

Sorry about the profanity, but trying to learn to read music puts me in a profane mood.

My music vocabulary is pretty shaky, so feel free to correct me if you see a usage error or (heaven forbid) a mistake in my image.

“Untold Stories,” a series of works by Lori Keeling Campbell and Marla Goodman, will be on display at Wild Joe’s Coffeehouse in Bozeman Montana, July 2018 with an artist reception during the July 13 Downtown Bozeman Artwalk. Campbell and Goodman share a vibrant aesthetic and an interest in artistic storytelling. Their exhibit eulogizes the dead and the living through collage, printmaking and mixed media works.



Lori Keeling Campbell

Lori Keeling Campbell is a print maker and illustrator who studied at the Kansas City Art Institute and has lived in Bozeman for 25 years. She has worked at the Community Food Co-op ever since, where she has done design work and coordinated the Co-op’s art gallery, as well as showing work in group art shows there. You may have seen her working at the Customer Service desk and checkout.

Campbell has done freelance work, been a member of cooperative art galleries and worked with art projects in local grade schools. She spent more than a decade volunteering at Big Brothers Big Sisters and currently volunteers at Sacks thrift store, which benefits the Help Center. She and her husband enjoy traveling by motorcycle here in the U.S. and on their boat in Europe.

Campbell’s works in the “Untold Stories” show were inspired by her “Day of the Dead” style handmade book of block prints and prose, which honors loved ones who have passed away. She will also show block prints she created for her ongoing participation in the Global Art Project.

Marla Goodman

Marla Goodman is a painter, performance artist and community art activist. She was raised in a rural area south of Bozeman, where her early influences included artists Bob and Gennie DeWeese and Dorothy Newton Semple. In the late 80s, she graduated from MSU’s School of Art with a degree in painting, but opted to remain on the fringes of the art community, working to bring art to non-traditional venues.

Best known for her dark sense of quirk, Goodman’s figural paintings often juxtapose quaint images with unexpected or ominous visitors. Her photos, dioramas and paintings sometimes incorporate dolls, which she describes as “existentially troubled.” Other works celebrate the unsung by studying vernacular photos and personal iconography.

Goodman’s paintings in the “Untold Stories” series extract personal imagery from the lives of real people, re-attaching it to found Storybook dolls, which she sews directly onto the canvas. She describes her experiment as a type of life story transplant, entrusting the dolls with the earthly baggage of real people.

In addition to painting, Goodman promotes nonprofits, organizes art outreach exhibits, teaches art and music workshops and appears as the street performer, “Polly Vinyl, Art Thereminist.”





Polly Vinyl, Art Thereminist

Polly Vinyl, Bozeman Montana’s most prominent Art Thereminist, is scheduled to appear May 12, 2018 at the Bozeman Labor Temple’s upcoming Support Group show with Zenitram Jr. and Shane De Leon(FB event).

Needless to say, Polly is excited to appear on the ticket with these great artists.

Polly, who boasts a Facebook followership of 61 individuals (as of this writing) first made a name for herself performing in a pink evening gown, along with karaoke tracks, in front of Cactus Records in Bozeman. She has also appeared in various incarnations such as Dolly Vinyl, Cowgirl Thereminist (with the Dirt Farmers, 406 Brewing), Holly Vinyl, Yuletide Thereminist (with a masked mystery harp accompanist at Bozeman’s Christmas Stroll), and as part of the lounge-inspired Piano/Theremin duo, The Cliff and Polly Show (with Cliff DeManty, at Wild Joe’s).

For the May 12 Labor Temple show, Polly is working on a 30-minute set which will include an informative Theremin-accompanied exploration of the history of American productivity and a salute to ice skating legend (and Polly’s own shoe-string relation) Sonja Henie.

In preparation, Polly penned new lyrics to the “The Swan,” (AKA, Le cygne, the penultimate movement of The Carnival of the Animals by Camille Saint-Saëns) which the legendary Clara Rockmore immortalized as a Theremin classic.

Polly will offer opportunities to purchase laminated “The Swan” lyrics bookmarks (and autographed 5×7 photos) at the performance, but interested parties can purchase “The Swan” bookmarks via Polly’s publicist, Goodwerks Creative, or her Etsy vendor, Kitschatorium.

The all-ages show begins at 8pm.

Lyrics to The Swan


Here’s a little story about how a small nonprofit got lots of free design work, just by being receptive to it.

I had been watching social media for a local nonprofit called Befrienders, which pairs isolated seniors with volunteers who commit to visiting them for an hour a week.

I could see that whoever was running Befrienders was making an effort with their Facebook posts. I sent a few encouraging messages (and a bit of unsolicited advice) for which they graciously thanked me. After donating a few bucks to one of their fundraisers I got acquainted with director, Jessica Stillman, via email, and offered to help her with graphic design if she needed it.

Jessica took me up on the offer. She sent me a copy of a newsletter/annual report that she (sole, part-time employee) had made herself (see slideshow below). I could tell that she worked hard to make it look nice, though I’d have done a few things differently to make the same product look even better. A lot of it comes down to simple tricks like

  • consistent text styles
  • margin size and alignment
  • image sizing/cropping


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Anyway, these initial interactions gave me the impression that I’d enjoy working with Jessica. 1. She is gracious to strangers offering helpful advice. 2. She thanks her donors. 3. She follows up. 4. I saw the humility, energy and perseverance in her communications with me, her Facebook posts and her annual report, so I inferred that she applied this same dedication to the rest of her job, which includes screening and interviewing volunteers and senior applicants for the program, among many other things.

Done. I’m all yours. What do you need?

Jessica and the Befrienders Board of Directors were working on a “Sponsor a Match” campaign to help bring in funds so that Jessica can further spread the word about the need for volunteers, and continue screening them at a high level in order to provide the best results for the senior applicants that the nonprofit serves.

She didn’t really have any copy written. So I just dug in her website for the info to make a general brochure. It was already well written, and I liked their logo, so it was easy make a brochure.


I suggested to Jessica that instead of making a whole brochure for her Sponsor a Match program, to make a 3.5×8.5″ insert which could also be the mail-in piece. That way she doesn’t have to print a full brochure for each special audience. Every penny counts.

We created a modest match sponsor appreciation packet, which includes a thank you card, a small framed display certificate, and a window decal.


Since we now had a pretty new general brochure, I suggested making other targeted inserts that could contain compelling information for potential volunteers and senior applicants. Next, I discovered that this year is the Befrienders’ 25th Anniversary, so I suggested making some promotional items focusing solely on the anniversary.


I was able to get the entire print package printed for under $500 (not counting the anniversary balloons, pins and stickers, which aren’t yet in production).

It was a wonderful experience working with Jessica and I hope that this new suite of materials will help their program serve even more local seniors. To learn more about Befrienders of Bozeman, or to donate to this worthy cause, visit:

Last summer I applied to have one of my paintings included in the Montana Arts Council’s 2018 Art Mobile of Montana show, a traveling exhibit that reaches audiences in grades K-12 all over Montana.

When the exhibit came to rural schools near Bozeman, Curator/Educator Tess Fahlgren invited me to come to one of the visits. It was beyond fun, beyond inspiring… It was the kind of heart-melting feel-good experience that just makes all the yucky stuff in the world disappear like a bad dream.

I fell in love with the incredible kids at this tiny rural school, and their cool teacher, and their toddling siblings, and I was not a bit surprised at how deftly and intelligently Tess handled the presentation, discussion and art activity. I knew I would enjoy going, but it was even more wonderful than I imagined. (A shout out to my friend, artist Angela Yonke, or “Miss Angela” as she’s known by the students, who taught art as a visiting artist at Pass Creek School for several years! I bet you miss these guys!)

Here’s a rough collection of video clips that I caught:

And below is a little photo essay taken with my phone, since my camera card was on the fritz.

Thanks so much, Tess, for the invite and to Tess, Ms Rider, and the students for including me in this great day. Happy travels, Art Mobile!

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