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These are some gelatin block monoprints I’ve made using reference images. For the skull and the cat, I used background textures created with stencils.

I learned gelatin plate printing while developing art workshops for senior citizens with physical and cognitive challenges. It’s easy and fun, and there’s lots of info on the web. I used the resources of gelatin gurus Linda Germain and Sharon Giles.

While experimenting, I found that one of my favorite techniques involves hand-painting monoprints using a reference image. I made a tutorial video to help others try it:

In the video, I didn’t go into detail about building the hinge jig: Basically, I made a little foam core platform so that my paper was flush with the surface of my gel block. Then I taped an additional piece of foam-core on, to align with the top of my printing paper. This functioned as a “masking tape hinge holder.” (Depending on how big the paper is, you’d just line up the hinge-holder with its top, and tape it down.) You can also just use a masking tape hinge and skip all the foam core fuss—whatever works!

Of course you need a GEL PLATE RECIPE Gel Plate Recipe Steps (PDF)
(Again, thanks to Linda and Sharon for their resources. They really know this stuff.)

Below are steps for a rest-home art project using a simple image. I practiced with an image I found on the web (sorry I couldn’t locate its original source to credit). Click on the first image to arrow through.

UPDATE: Here are some pictures from the Gel Plate workshop I did at the Gallatin Rest Home in May, 2017. The residents loved this activity and were very successful.










Hey, don’t talk about my friends and family like that! They are too a step up from mimes and improv performers. They’re puppeteers.

This year’s adult puppet show at Bozeman’s Verge Theater will be Fri-Sat May 12-27 2017. The show, written by comedian Ryan Cassavaugh, is called “Freak Out.” It was described to me as “a hippie blood cult B-movie musical.” So it’s got that going for it. Among a talented cast of actor/singer/puppeteers, my daughter, Wren, plays the part of the cult-leader’s daughter. Proud moments in parenthood!

I was asked to help with props, so I said yes to painting a police car and two motorcycles. Little did I know that this didn’t mean just the gas tank (easy!) it meant the motorcycle chassis: not a thing I felt overly confident about.

Here, puppeteers Pol Llovet and Ryan Lawrence Flynn experiment with their motorcycles-to-be, after cutting out plywood shapes in the back room of Sadie Cassavaugh’s frame shop (Frugal Frame Shop). Somehow they’re planning to add a front wheel, Easy Rider style. You’ll have to go see the show to see if they pull it off. 😉

(crew photo courtesy Ryan Cassavaugh)

These were some really rough canvases – made from a “canvas” drop-cloth, actually – so gessoing was the hardest part of the job. Paint doesn’t cover well on a rough surface, so I decided that a rough, painterly look was fine. I didn’t get too fussy with it.

The Police Car was really wide, but the sides were short, giving it a clown-car-like appearance. Appropriately.

Here’s what the motorcycle chassis looked like, unpainted.

First step was to paint all surfaces black. The laminate surface was smooth, so it only took a pint of “cheep” acrylic to cover all 8 sides. (It took just under a gallon of gesso to cover the three car canvases.)

The next step was to paint a bunch of mechanical looking doodads in white and bluish silver.

There were two sides of two cycles to do, so four sides in all.

Whew! I was glad I got them done early enough that the cast could rehearse with them. I am dying to see what the show looks like on stage!

Show times are 8pm Fri-Sat May 12-13, 19-20 and 26-27 2017. Tickets can be purchased in advance on Verge Theater’s Ticket page, or at the door while they last. The comedy is intended for mature audiences.


I’ve been working on a series of paintings for a show at Wild Joe’s in September, and I stopped to experiment with some of my under-painting in a series of anti-trump, feminist greeting cards.

It started with some basic ideas: (These are all available on Etsy):

Then I thought it would be cool to do a full 4-card set of notecards:

I added a needlepoint look to these, to add that revolutionary flair.

Then, one of my friends suggested that I instead use the art for a Mother’s Day card, hence the birth of the “Smash the Patriarchy and Happy Mother’s Day” card.

To purchase works, contact me via form at bottom of page or buy via my Etsy shop.

My most recent series of paintings, oil drawings and prints are on display at Wild Joe’s Coffee Spot, August 1-31. Stop by, have a cup of joe, and visit them in person! These are works I’ve done over the past few months on the theme of Fire and Water. Some are large oil stick drawings, some are small acrylic paintings, and I included some affordably priced framed prints, too. If you purchase a work, I’ll arrange to get it to you in the beginning of September. (If you can pick up at my Bozeman studio, be sure to contact me for a free shipping coupon.)

Fire and Water (my bio/artist’s statement of sorts).

I come from a world of beautiful, ordinary, safe things. I grew up in a rural area south of Bozeman, a fourth generation Montanan. After my dad retired from the Navy in 1969, Mom and Dad resettled the family in Montana. They bought an old farm house where we lived out a 1970s version of an idyllic pastoral life.

My lifestyle there included half-heartedly weeding the garden, gathering eggs, picking berries, watching Six Million Dollar Man-era TV shows, reading, listening to The Beatles and The Monkees, singing, playing guitar, throwing rocks in the creek, fishing, swimming, building forts, making mud pies, tagging along on trips to town (Bozeman’s trendiest boutique, Jay’s Hallmark, had exotic things like strawberry lip balm) and waiting at the Buttrey’s fountain counter with a lemon Coke while Mom did the grocery shopping.

My sisters, brother and I spent hours around the kitchen table, talking and playing games after meals straight from the Betty Crocker cookbook (interspersed with handed-down recipes for venison, trout and game birds). We considered store-bought foods a delicacy, with Pop Tarts being the ultimate. Since my dad was an electronics specialist, we weren’t really farmers or ranchers and I was envious of our neighbors, who were the real thing. While we were listening to Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Prima on Dad’s reel to reel tape machine, they were listening to Tammy Wynette and Tom T. Hall on the radio.

My favorite activities were reading, drawing and riding horses. While my sisters played pinochle with Mom and Dad, I would entertain myself, using library books as reference, to draw horses on the same freezer paper that Mom used for wrapping deer steaks. Those days, I would draw anything just for the thrill of seeing what my pencil could reproduce: beer bottles, cigarette packages, pictures from magazines, anything that would sit still long enough for me to examine its form and shadows.

At some point I lost interest in drawing for the sake of drawing, though. Growing up in my rural Montana bubble, I was shocked to discover that not everything was pinochle, horses and berry pies. Awareness crept in. The angst of the nuclear age weighed on me. I began to feel compelled to look for subjects that told some kind of truth.

As a young teen, my truths were dramatic (I drowned Ophelias by the swarm). Later they became more mundane (my penchant for painting shirts and bathrobes compelled my college advisor, Hal Schlotzhauer, to guess I was copying Jim Dine, though I’d never heard of him until then).

Lately, my subjects tend to combine aspects nostalgia and peril. As much as I love landscapes (in fact, I tend to buy a lot of them) I never really feel like they tell the whole truth. I feel like around the corner from every beautiful, safe thing is something frightening or depressing. My sister, Jana, always says, “If I could draw, I’d draw nice things! Can’t you just paint something pretty?” I can, sometimes I try, but… those little flames of worry keep sneaking in.

So I give you Fire and Water. This series is a two-fer. It began when I started using vernacular photos of bathing and boating subjects as reference for simple oil stick drawings. The subject satisfies my craving for a peaceful lost world, and I love the strange quirks that happen to figures and shapes in back-lit photos.

But the truth is… I really seem to want to paint things on fire. Ironically, for a person who avoids adventure and excitement, I’ve always loved fire. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that there’s something going on in this theme. People posing with oblivious smiles while danger lurks all around them. How can they not see it? Is it possible that they don’t even notice?

Maybe this comes off as a sophomoric fancy, like when young boys go through a stage of drawing plane crashes. But this is the way I see things: beautiful, ordinary, confusing and scary.

Marla Goodman, August 2016


Grandmother on a Winter’s Day

I’ve been digging around on old drives again. Look what I ran across.


I remember drawing this and at the time, I didn’t think it was too good, but now it seems quaint.

This illustration started with a poem, a yellowing clipping of which was framed and nailed up in my mom’s kitchen. Someone had painstakingly typed it and decorated it with tole-style hearts and birds. I thought it was written by my grandmother, who died shortly before I was born. At least, family lore said that my grandma had sent the poem to my mother when Mom was a young bride. Here is the poem, typed in Courier to resemble our clipping:


In our kitchen’s version, my dad’s awkward handwriting completed the story with two final stanzas: “She worked like h*** every day. At 28 she passed away.”

One day something out of the blue reminded me of the poem. I had such fond memories of standing by the big Monarch stove reading it that I decided to illustrate it. I made one picture (above) and promptly gave up. Apparently it didn’t look good enough to me to continue. Or maybe the task of doing all those scenes seemed daunting. (I guess the message of the poem didn’t quite take root in me, regardless of the many times I read it.)

Later, I decided to use it as the subject of a paper doll. This was during my brief, exuberant and ultimately ill-fated “Draw and sell paper dolls for money” period. (That’s post- “Paint on second-hand furniture” and pre- “Make vintage fabric greeting cards,” for those of you keeping track.)


I do love paper dolls!

Don’t, by the way, challenge me or any of my sisters to a paper doll cutting smack down, because any one of us could kick your butt without breaking a sweat. We grew up practicing paper doll cutting as if it were the only path to a secure future—the way girls in Jane Austen books practice painting and playing the pianoforte.

We know all the secrets: We honed our skills selecting strategically posed underwear models from the Montgomery Wards catalog, then cutting their outfits from the fashion pages of the same issue. We learned to intentionally lengthen the tabs on commercial paper dolls, to make dressing go more smoothly.

When our dolls’ heads got floppy, we fashioned cleverly concealed neck braces from Popsicle sticks and Scotch tape—or glued Dolly down to a scrap of card stock and re-cut her: better, stronger than ever. Sometimes there were tiny accessories, not really intended to be cut out, but if you were really motivated (which we were) you could cut them out, adding your own tiny tabs as you went. After all, what is a woman without her purse, her lipstick, her compact, her sunglasses, her Yorkshire terrier on a leash? It’s not like we were just going to crumple up those valuables and throw them away!

As the youngest doll cutter, I remember my chagrin when I’d accidentally cut off the tabs. Sure, you can tape them back on, but there’s a certain shame to it. When one’s paper doll is less than perfectly cut, others notice. (Plus, Scotch tape was a rare and precious commodity in our household. My mom guarded it jealously and meted it out sparingly.)

Some paper dolls came with a big wax crayon that you could rub on the clothes to make them stick better. That wasn’t for purists though…plus, they tended to pick up carpet fuzz.

But I digress…

GoodmanpaperdollMy “Grandmother” paper doll sheet is nothing compared to the fabulously detailed, multi-layered outfits that we played with. But it’s kind of fun if you need a little something to do on a winter’s day.

(Here’s a printable version of my Grandma paper doll for download purchase on Etsy.)

By the way… It turns out that my grandma didn’t write the poem. Its origin is hazy, but Snopes cites an instance of it appearing in an Ohio newspaper in 1926. Apparently it was quite a fad to send it to people in the 50s, and it was common to see various iterations of it in magazines, attributed to “author unknown.”

I always loved the beautifully illustrated paper advent calendars that my mom got us when we were kids. For each of the 24 days before Christmas there was a little numbered door, and behind it a picture. It was so fun to peek behind a new door each day to see what surprise awaited. And there were four of us kids at home, so we had to take turns being the one to open the door, which made it even more exciting.

For years I had wanted to try making my own, but always put it off because I was too lazy to cut all the little doors, and I couldn’t think of an easy way to do it.

Then I saw some great envelope collages by artist Camilla Engman on The Jealous Curator blog, and I knew I had to borrow her idea and make something out of envelopes.

So there was a lot of digging around in my stationery box and I started on a one-off advent calendar for my daughter. I was only able to fit 11 windows on the first envelope:


I drew the envelope houses first with waterproof pen and colored them with watercolor. Then I cut the window holes, and traced the sizes of the holes onto bits of a brown paper bag that I had handy. Next, I drew up 24 tiny pictures in Prismacolor and glued them behind the windows. It was fun thinking up the activities that might be going on inside the houses.

Here’s one of the pictures at roughly actual size. (The rest I’m keeping as a surprise!) After I drew this little pie maker, I changed my mind and decided to have bears living in one house, mice in another, and beetles living in the third. I guess this little guy is going to have to wait until next year for his debut.


The calendar turned out so cute that I ended up scanning it and making duplicates, which I sent to other family members—about 25 in all. (So much for my laziness about cutting little windows.) It about killed me, keeping it a secret until Dec. 1!


Then my sister stopped by and we decided that using the illustrations to make gift tags with little surprise windows would be really cute. Of course, we added glitter, because glitter makes things even better!

We ended up with a few extra tags, so I used self-adhesive photo corners to attach them to greeting cards. I like the idea of friends being able to re-use the tags on a gift to someone else.


Maybe now that I have the Exacto knife skills in high gear, I’ll make up a few calendars to try selling on Etsy next year.

Or maybe not! After all, it’s time to start making biscotti. Perhaps the great advent calendar craze of 2014 is done.

If you feel inspired, you could try making your own some time.

Happy Holidays!


The twins

The twins

Some people refer to altered thrift store art as “piggyback,” “upcycled,” or “corrected” art, or as “retro interventions,” “redirected paintings,” “collaborative works” or “makeovers.”

I prefer to think of it as an addition, not a revision. I’m just adding visitors to a world that someone else created. I like these found paintings. If anything, they are under-appreciated. All that effort! They inspire me. And working in retroactive partnership with a stranger (maybe living, maybe not) helped me get over the fear of painting.

This series might not be exactly new or brave or high-brow, but it gives these found paintings I love a second chance to be shown—and I touched art supplies, which is no small thing, in my world. Hopefully the goodness of the found landscape or still life is still evident, and my visitors invite participatory narrative, if you’ll pardon kind of a barfy “artists’s statementy” sounding term.  (I just made it up, but I bet it’s not new. …yup, Googled it.)

After much consideration, I settled on making my additions in acrylic. Many of the original paintings are oil, and technically you are never, ever, ever supposed to paint in acrylic on oil. This is because of adherence problems, and the possibility of bubbling as the oil paint oxidizes. But I chose acrylic so that if at some point someone wants to erase my visitors, they may have better luck. (By the way, bubbling is not that likely, since the original paintings are several years old and have had time to oxidize.)

There are imperfections, marks, wear and damages in many of the original paintings, and my additions may not last forever. Then again, imperfections, damages and impermanence… Art imitates life! This series was on display at Wild Joe’s Coffee Spot in Bozeman June 4 — Sept. 8, 2014

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Actors Theatre of Montana's August: Osage County poster, before and after triage

Actors Theatre of Montana’s August: Osage County poster, before and after triage

My notoriety as an unpaid graphic design triage nurse must be spreading! I got a call from the Actors’ Theatre of Montana on Sunday morning. “We have our poster started, but it needs help, and we need to put up the posters this week…”

The poster they had underway was a valiant effort. The problem was that the photograph had backed the designer into a corner, and the result was a little bit too jumbled.

Sometimes I liken graphic design to gardening: Good gardeners aren’t afraid to dig up a few plants! It’s hard when you’re told that you have to use a certain photo, or that this text all has to go on there, but in order to make a piece that does its job, sometimes you have to do some slashing and burning.

And thus began my little makeover project: My goals were to make the title text as large as possible and make the dates more prominent. I wanted to retain the list of actors, because this cast is a huge list of Montana’s best talent. (It’s gonna be a great show!) I also wanted to accentuate the Ellen Theatre logo, because the Ellen is a beautiful old theater that has a great reputation for quality productions (not to mention a cool logo).

One of my missions in life is to convince clients that ticket info can be pretty small. FIRST catch the viewer’s attention. THEN make them fall in love with the event. Once they’re in love, they will get out a magnifying glass to read the rest, if necessary.

Orange Photographie had provided a variety of nice shots, so the first thing I did was select a photo that I felt would be easier to work with. Following is a simplified step by step of the process of getting from point A to point B, using PhotoShop to manipulate the photo and InDesign to set the text and arrange the layout. (Click on the first circle to arrow through the steps.)

DCYE-SeasonFinaleOn my career aptitude tests in junior high, being a volunteer promoter for a Live Radio Theatre company never came up. And yet, here are the results of another season of helping Don’t Close Your Eyes Live Radio Theatre get their message out.

It’s an interesting challenge, because in the tradition of classic old time radio, the two writers (Keith Suta and Ryan Cassavaugh) write and stage the live one-hour shows on a tight weekly schedule. During the week that Keith is writing a show, Ryan is doing a table read, a dress rehearsal and two performances with the cast of his show. Then the next week, Ryan is writing while Keith is staging. As a result of this whirlwind production schedule, the cast—and even the title of the show—sometimes isn’t nailed down until the Monday of the week that it’s staged!

To help them get the word out, I started doing these little promos with photos of cast members and their roles to post on Facebook. This way, the actors could be tagged in the image, and fans would know what show was playing and who was in it. (Theatre companies are notorious for not realizing that audiences actually care who the actors are!) The tricky part was finding photos each week. Often I could grab photos that the talented Nina Tucciarelli took during the first and second seasons, but sometimes I had to resort to trolling Facebook for mugshots! I tried to make the mugs look appropriate to the show theme, but sometimes it was quite time consuming to dig around to find mugs that would work. All for a little FB buzz!

I made the date/time block a different color each week to help differentiate the shows, and fooled around with different treatments for the photos to make each promo look a little different from the last. Otherwise I tried to give them a relatively consistent branded look.

This is the last week of their season. Should be a big time! I happen to be an OTR nerd, but I think it’s about the best family entertainment around. I raised my kid up listening to The Bickersons, Red Skelton, Burns & Allen and Edgar Bergen… And she grew up to be an unpaid Live Radio Theatre sound effects technician! (But that’s another story…)

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I spent my morning at the Children’s Museum of Bozeman with author M.G. Arverick, who wrote the children’s book, “There is Something Growing in my Shoe.” (He was nice enough to let me draw the illustrations!)

We did a string painting activity with a group of summer campers at the museum, so they could make monsters kind of like the illustrations in the book. BOY did we have fun! Check out the slide show to see the great Shoe Monsters that the kids made! After their pictures were done, M.G. showed them on the big screen, just like his e-book, and the kids told about their monsters. There was one that eats jet planes! …and one of the monsters wasn’t scared of anything!

If you want to do the art activity yourself, Well Lighted Books has a great DYI about how to do string painting.

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Marla Goodman Illustration for "There is Something Growing in my Shoe" by M.G. Arverick.





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