Prints all together

Two Favorite Things: Ray Bradbury and Beer!


“Beer’s intellectual. What a shame so many idiots drink it.” ~ Ray Bradbury

Today I’m excited to show off my new print celebrating beer. You can find this print in my Etsy shop here.

This is the third in my series of prints celebrating the “six beverages that changed the world.”  I have a hard time figuring out which of those beverages are my favorite. What makes me happier, a perfectly brewed cup of coffee in the morning or a nice Italian red with rich pasta? A pint of IPA sipped in a quiet English pub? A good Bourbon, cozily sampled with friends in an upscale bar? A Coca-cola with a burger and fries?

Clearly, each of these drinks compliment different times of day, moods, and atmospheres. It’s no wonder human beings had to keep inventing new libations to love. For me, a beer is best enjoyed after a hard day’s work. It’s the kind of drink you have with others, in public settings, a friend’s barbecue or a bar. At least in America, it used to be considered a working man’s drink, emphasis on the man.  Women didn’t drink beer. They sipped wine or cocktails. Now every gentrified neighborhood in the country has its own microbrewery with a loyal following of self-proclaimed beer snobs, both men and women.

My husband and I are just such snobs. Yes, I’ve come a long way from my youth when I thought all beer was supposed to taste like Bud Light. But I digress. Imagine how much fun Mike and I have had sampling different beers in England, Germany, and Belgium.

This is why I was excited to find this quote by Ray Bradbury when I was playing around with ideas for my beer print! Yes, beer can be as sophisticated, varied, and complex as wine.

Now on to the process.

The sketch with colored pencil and the tracing paper I used to transfer the image onto the linoleum.

First, I had to play around with a couple of sketches. I decided on a composition with the beer bottle on the side and the lettering curved above and below. The words “what a shame” would be on the beer bottle itself, so that the eye flows from the top to the bottom of the piece in a kind of backward “c”. This was a difficult quote to incorporate into an image, because it is not just one sentence. That’s why the beer label proved useful in the design. I wanted the image to have a rustic, old-timey feel, so I chose a lettering that reflected that. The spiraling design in the background is the most unusual part of this and my favorite.

Since I wanted to use three colors, I used two plates. The first one (on the left in the picture) would print first in yellow, then I would carve out everything I wanted to remain yellow when I printed on top in light brown. The second plate would be for the rest of the lettering. Step one, step two, step three.

Still in the carving stages.

Coming up with the yellow color was the hardest part of the inking process. Because my press is too small, I printed this in a friend’s studio. (Her name is Mirka Hokkenen Kim. She’s a brilliant artist who has taught me a lot about printmaking and you can find her work here.) I thought I mixed enough color to bring with me, but I quickly ran out. We tried to mix up some new color, but her white was a different brand and it kept coming out too orange. After trying and failing to get the same color, I eventually had to run home and grab my white ink and bring it back with me. You live and you learn, I guess!

stage one inking
First color.

After the yellow, I had to carve out the areas I didn’t want to print in the second round. This is why this is called “Reduction Printing.”

Carving out the areas I don't want to print in the second stage.
Carving out the areas I don’t want to print in the second stage.

Next I printed the light brown. Then I switched to the second plate and printed the second shade of brown. The second shade of brown was also tricky to mix. At first it was too black, then too red, then finally just right.

Third and final stage of printing: adding the rest of the lettering.
Third and final stage of printing: adding the rest of the lettering.

I don’t know why I didn’t think about attributing the quote until so late in the process, but at the end, I had to carve out a stamp so that Ray Bradbury’s name would appear on the prints.

Addition of Ray Bradbury’s name using hand-carved stamp.

And then…. drumroll please…. the final touch was adding these red foil stars. I can’t take credit for the idea. It was Mirka’s suggestion and she was right on the money because I think they look totally snazzy!



And there you have it!

The finished product!
The finished product!

The other prints so far in this series are listed in my Etsy shop.

Up next: my first foray into resingrave etching!


The Ghent Altarpiece

Better late than never! This is my travelog about Ghent, Belgium where we saw The Adoration of the Mystic Lamb, the most impressive work to come out of the Northern Renaissance. It was also Adolph Hitler’s most coveted work for his Führer Museum in Linz, Austria, which was never built.

I learned all this reading The Monuments Men about the Allied military units who tracked down and saved the artwork the Nazis stole across Europe. It’s a fascinating book and I highly recommend you read the book and DO NOT watch George Clooney’s schlocky, atrocious and almost completely fictional film adaptation. The most impressive thing about the story in my mind was the fact that, for the first time in human history, an invading army protected and returned artwork rather than willfully destroying or plundering.

The Adoration of the Mystic Lamb by Jan and Hubert Van Eyck
The Adoration of the Mystic Lamb by Jan and Hubert Van Eyck

In person, the altarpiece is astounding, tucked away behind heavy glass in a closed-off alcove of St. Bavo Cathedral (which is impressive on its own). I would have liked to stay a long time examining every inch of it. It is the type of painting that makes me feel like a child again, getting lost in a picture book. It tells a wonderfully elaborate story with a host of characters, angels, and exquisitely-painted figures. This may seem funny, but sometimes my favorite part of a painting is a peaceful, verdant meadow or garden in the background. The luminous skies running the length of the bottom panels and repeated in the angels’ panels above are truly heavenly.

Source Image: Smarthistory
Source Image: Smarthistory

Ghent may not be high on anyone’s list when there are so many other cities to visit in Europe, but I certainly recommend it. In addition to the painting, there was plenty to see and plenty of beer to drink (the main attraction for my husband!)

A couple of places I highly recommend: The Dulle Griet for beer and Bridge Brasserie for food.

The Dulle Griet is a fascinating little hole in the wall decorated with old cartwheels, banners, and kinda-creepy marionettes. It has scores of Trappist beers to try and a unique tradition: If you order a “yard of beer” in an elegant, tall flask, you must give up a shoe until you are finished with it. I guess this discourages theft of the glasses.  When we were there, all night, we saw boots and shoes dropped on the bar or stashed in a basket that was lowered and then pulled up when someone would ring a bell. (It took us a little while to figure out what was really going on!)

The Bridge is a very fine restaurant that serves a Ghent specialty known as Waterzooi, a stew of chicken or fish and vegetables, which is absolutely delicious with fresh rolls and a light beer.

One of the beers we tried at Dulle Griet.
One of the beers we tried at Dulle Griet.

Here are a few more pictures to give you a feel of this beautiful medieval city.

St Bavo Square at night
St Bavo Square at night
The old bell tower.
The old bell tower by day.
View from the tower.
View from the tower.
Saint Bavo Square
Saint Bavo Square
Mmm... the waffles were so good!
Mmm… the waffles were so good!


The Castle of the Counts. There was an exhibit of medieval torture and punishment in here.
The Castle of the Counts. There was an exhibit of medieval torture and punishment in here.
Belgian Beer
That’s right!
I just loved this fountain of a dog chasing ducks.
I just loved this fountain of a dog chasing ducks.
Beautiful canals in the background.
Beautiful canals in the background.


Hope you enjoyed this little tour and hope it inspires you to seek out this and other hidden European gems! Next I would love to go to Bruges to see  Michelangelo’s Bruges Madonna, which also figured prominently in The Monuments Men.

How about you? What masterpieces do you have on your bucket list?



Studio Update: Internet Detox + Printshop Visit in Frankfurt + New Linocut

Wow, it has been a long time since my last post! Truthfully, I have backed off of the internet  in kind of a personal growth experiment after reading this article in the New York Times. I decided to do a digital detox myself, just to see if I could do it. My main goal was to stay off of Facebook for a month. Facebook is my biggest addiction and, like many people, I find myself spending way too much time on it, even when I just intend to “check in.” The other thing I notice about Facebook is that I’m not very “present” when I am out doing fun stuff. I am endlessly wondering how to report back with a picture or status update. On days when not much is happening, I felt pressured to invent something. (I think this is how a lot of unworthy food pictures end up in newsfeeds.)

So, I took the challenge, and found that when I got off of Facebook, I also easily backed off of everything else. After checking my email and looking at the news, there wasn’t much else to look at, so I would move on and get started with my day. This led to some pretty boring mornings, when I would drink my coffee and just sit and stare. Yes, that’s right. Eventually, though, I found myself doing yoga every morning and even reading books in the morning, rather than getting online.

Now that my detox is over, I find that I don’t even feel like getting on Facebook or any other social media site. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy seeing pictures of my friends’ lives, especially news about babies and kids. I also love to see pictures posted by artist friends of work in progress. I also think Facebook is a great way to share and discover information. However, I also found that, after a month away, I didn’t miss a whole lot. The posts were pretty much the same, the memes have just moved on to other hot topics – Russia and Putin instead of, well, whatever came before that.

So, I challenge you, dear reader. Try this detox exercise for yourself and see if it leaves you a little more centered and grounded. It certainly did me.

So, on to my latest artsy news….

Yesterday, I had the tremendous fortune to visit an old-school printer’s studio in the Frankfurt area, thanks to my good friend, Astrid Haas.  Our friend, Bernard at Drucken+Lernen, took us through the history of printmaking from the days of the first movable type printing in Korea, to Johannes Gutenberg, who perfected the printing press, to the different techniques still used today, even in the age of computers and sophisticated graphic design software. It was a little tough keeping up because most of the presentation was in German. I was impressed with myself for even getting the jist… I guess those German classes are paying off!

Here’s a tour:

Trappings and tools of printmaking techniques, including a lithograph stone and a woodcut.
Trappings and tools of printmaking techniques, including a lithograph stone and a woodcut.
Such an amazing place.
Such an amazing place.
Etching plates. This type of printing involves drawing in wax on a metal plate. Then, acid is used to cut into the metal and create an indelible image with which to print.
Etching plates. This type of printing involves drawing in wax on a metal plate. Then, acid is used to cut into the metal and create an indelible image with which to print.
A Gutenberg-style press. The handheld-lever made  printing easier than older wheel cranking presses. However, because it printed one sheet at a time manually, the text was often off-center from page to page and on either side of a page.
A Gutenberg-style press. The handheld-lever made printing easier than wheel cranking presses. However, because it printed one sheet at a time manually, the text was often off-center from page to page and on either side of a page.
Bernard, showing us a little model of the Gutenberg press.
Bernard, showing us a little model of the Gutenberg press.
A modern press, the newest technology in the shop, sitting right next to some of the oldest technologies.
A large letter press machine. (Much bigger than my wee one). That is a linocut print on it.
A linotype machine from the 1970s. This fascinating machine used to be the industry standard for printing newspapers. It gets its name from the fact that it can instantly produce an entire line of metal type. And it is literally "type." The line is produced from a typewriter attached to it.
A linotype machine from the 1970s. This fascinating machine used to be the industry standard for printing newspapers. It gets its name from the fact that it can instantly produce an entire line of metal type. And it is literally “type.” The line is produced from a typewriter attached to it.

This visit got me even more excited about my new print project. Remember how I was talking about doing a series of linocut prints commemorating the six beverages that changed the world?

I’ve moved onto beer! And it is my most ambitious print yet! It will be a three-colored print with two plates and one of the plates will be a reduction print. I am still in the carving stage so this is just a sneak peek, but you can get the idea. I hope to start printing this week.

The quote I used for this print is from Ray Bradbury: “Beer’s intellectual. What a shame so many idiots drink it.”

The sketch and the tracing paper I used to create the design.
The sketch and the tracing paper I used to create the design.

The carving:


BeerLinocut-HeatherKerleyBeerLinocut-HeatherkerleyBeer Linocut-HeatherKerleyBeerLinocut-HeatherKerley

… and, that’s about all for now, folks. Thanks for reading! I have a series of new paintings and ideas cooking and in the works so definitely stay tuned this spring for my new work.

Also, be sure to catch my next travelog about Ghent, Belgium where I got to see the Adoration of the Mystic Lamb, the greatest painting to come out of the Northern Renaissance.



Making Art While Appeasing Your Inner Committee

I had an insight today.  Regardless of what you think makes a successful artist – whether it be sales, gallery representation, or critical attention – you can’t even be an artist without tremendous inner resilience and spiritual balance to. Just. Keep. Working. This is what separates the ones who try and give up and the ones who keep going, year after year, whether anyone cares about their work or not.

As for myself, I have reached a critical point, where I think the momentum and thrill of leaving my job behind to become a full-time artist has dropped off and I am left with the personal battle I fight everyday to get myself into the studio to work. Suddenly, just cracking the whip isn’t enough anymore. The work is dragging, my mind is wandering, I count down the minutes to the end of the day when I can put down my paintbrush and walk away. A far cry from the liberating, joyous feeling I used to have when I was alone with my work.

So this is it. This is the hardest thing that an artist has to overcome and I’m right in the thick of it.

I have no boss to keep me on track. I have no set agenda or schedule unless I impose it on myself. When I quit my job to do this, I did put in place a set schedule and expectations. I reasoned that I should maintain the same roughly 9-5 schedule I had at my old job in the government. Mornings I would do administrative tasks, social networking, managing my online shop and by afternoon I would be in the studio to work for a few hours.

Most days, this has worked for me.

Since the New Year, however, I’ve had a terrible time getting back on track. Suddenly, I feel like I’m at war with myself. Not to get all Jungian on you, but I can break it down like this: There’s the inner taskmaster, trying to keep on top of me, attempting to impose structure, routine, schedules, etc. Then there is the inner rebellious teen, trying to undermine the taskmaster at every turn. On another level, I have my chattering, analytical “monkey mind” pulling me in all sorts of directions while I try to steer from a deeper, more artistic, “higher” self. Lately, I’ve become unmoored from that deeper center.

No person is a completely unified and coherent individual. We are made up of a crowd of different people, each representing an aspect of ourselves, taking on a different role. Sometimes, these “selves” are earlier versions of us. If you’ve ever watched the show The United States of Tara, you are familiar with this (albeit in an extreme form). I think dissociative identity disorder (multiple personalities), whether it truly exists or not, is fascinating as a fictional device because everyone can somewhat relate to the chaos of having multiple selves, pulling us in various directions. 

At any rate, these different personalities, just like real people, can feel hurt, frustrated, angry, and resentful.

… And I think that’s where I am right now. Here I thought I was running free, three years away from a highly structured and demanding career. However, I took that pace and structure with me. The result: I have a full-scale rebellion on my hand, triggered by my very ambitious and merciless set of New Years resolutions and goals. (Clearly, the Taskmaster was given entirely too much influence in the process.)

So, I think what I’m going to do is reconvene my selves and tell them we’re starting from scratch. We’ll see how it goes.

Conference in the center of the mind. Source:

In the meantime, I am going to work on reordering my ideas about what it means to be an artist and how best to keep up my work. One thing is clear: I can’t achieve anything through sheer will power alone.

For this, I like the idea of the middle way in Buddhism, the path of moderation in between the two extremes of self-indulgence and self-mortification. In yoga, there is equal emphasis placed on the problems of attachment and aversion. The goal is to practice non-attachment without feeling deprivation. This is something a person must address at some point when they are trying to achieve something through discipline alone.

Let me give you an example. Say you decide to go on a crash diet in the hopes of losing a few pounds as a New Year’s resolution. You eat a very lean, low-calorie diet for a few days and then, on Friday, you order a large pizza and a liter of Coke and proceed to consume it down to the last bite. Following the middle way, food is a necessary, potentially enjoyable part of life and you should neither deprive yourself of its nourishment, nor should you ever gorge yourself. To change your diet and get in shape, you would be wise to simply try some healthy, flavorful recipes with your favorite ingredients or try a new, fun sport or exercise. Enjoyment is the key to sticking with anything.

Perhaps the rigid schedule I lived with the past three years has served its purpose. It kept me on track, somewhat, but I’m willing to admit now that I could probably improve upon it in a way that allows me more freedom and openness. I have been showing up to do the work, but I dare say I’m still not doing my best work.

I didn’t think I would be shedding another skin… I didn’t know I was still carrying around so much from my previous career which no longer serves me.

And so here I am faced with the unknown again.

I had clung to my precious schedule, afraid that if I took it away, I would have nothing to keep me honest. Which, frankly, does a disservice to my desire and need to create in the absence of all expectations. Isn’t this my life calling, after all? I would work no matter what, even if I thought no one would ever see it. Especially if I thought no one would see it.

In the end, I think the answer might be a period of total freedom. I table all the administrative tasks, put my Etsy shop on the back-burner, and give myself complete freedom to play every day for… let’s say three months. To appease the taskmaster, I will work each day for “X” hours. Beyond that, I’m free to fill the time in however I want, so long as it is creatively spent.

It’s just a thought I’m kicking around, anyway. For a change, I would like to be flexible about the path ahead of me right now, including with this.

How about you? If you are an artist or maker, how do you stay on schedule and, conversely, how do you make sure your freedom to create is boundless?

Scenes of Christmas

Haven’t been painting much. My life has been so busy lately getting ready for Christmas… I’ve had to reserve my creative energies for cookie-making, decorating, and pointing my camera phone around, trying to capture the beauty of the season. Here are some of those images for you to enjoy…

Happy Holidays!

Christmas Liquor from the Schnapps House in our village.
Christmas Liquor from the Schnapps House in our village.


I love these stars, carved from wood and lit from within, they adorn a breadmaker's stall at the Kaiserslautern Christmas market.
I love these stars, carved from wood and lit from within, they adorn a breadmaker’s stall at the Kaiserslautern Christmas market.
Breads in Strasbourg, France. The round Christmas bread is call Kügelhopf.
Breads in Strasbourg, France. The round Christmas bread is called Kügelhopf.
The Strasbourg Cathedral, hit with sunlight.
The Strasbourg Cathedral, hit with sunlight.
Strasbourg Cathedral windows.
Strasbourg Cathedral windows.
The huge Christmas tree in the square in Strasbourg.
The huge Christmas tree in the square in Strasbourg.
Gummy beer! Who wouldn’t want this in their Christmas Stocking?

Buy Art, Help the Homeless… Or just help the homeless

Homeless man in Washington D.C. (Image from The Guardian).

15% of all sales from my Etsy shop from now through the New Year’s will be donated to Miriam’s Kitchen. Read on for more about this great organization and other ways to help those less fortunate this holiday season. 

This year, my husband and I decided to divide our charitable support for food banks in our two hometowns, Farmington, New Mexico and Columbus, Ohio, along with Miriam’s Kitchen, a homeless advocacy center in Washington, D.C (my adopted city). We can’t give a lot, but we thought it was important with how many people are struggling to get by this year.

Image from

In New Mexico, we are supporting the Echo Food Bank in Farmington. In Ohio, we’ve given a small donation to the Mid-Ohio Food Bank. Huge tip: if you give to the Mid-Ohio Food bank before December 19th, your donation will be matched, thanks to a group of area businesses.

Of the many causes I care about, homelessness and hunger are especially important for me. In a nutshell, it is very hard for me to abide the notion of someone sleeping on the streets, in the cold, unable to buy themselves a meal if they are hungry.

This is why I’m a huge advocate for Miriam’s Kitchen, which prepares healthy meals daily for anyone who needs them. In addition, they offer case management services to help homeless families and individuals get back on their feet.

But they go even beyond that. The icing on the cake is the various activities and classes they offer, including art therapy sessions (with an on-staff art therapist), yoga, and so on.

Image from
Image from

I don’t think it’s enough that we simply take care of the body, but the mind and spirit, too. It’s not just about feeding people, but restoring their humanity and dignity, too.

Art Therapy Blog

Watch this video to learn more about the incredible work they do:

It can be easy to become apathetic about a problem as seemingly intractable and pervasive as homelessness, but here are just a few anecdotes illustrating some of Miriam Kitchen’s recent successes:

“There’s Wiley, who received housing through a program for veterans, after rotating on and off the streets for several years.
There’s Mike, whose housing this year allowed him to return to school.
There’s Sally, a cancer survivor who has reconnected with her family, and is able to live with them again.
We couldn’t be happier for each of them, and the others who have been housed in 2013. They inspire and remind us that our mission is possible.” – Scott Schenkelberg, President and CEO

This is why I’m pleased to say that 15% of all sales from Etsy shop from now through the New Year’s will be donated to Miriam’s Kitchen, in addition to the donation I’ve already made.

You don’t have to give that way, however. If you are willing and able, I encourage you to make a donation directly to Miriam’s Kitchen by following this link. If you live and work in the Washington, D.C. area, I also encourage you to try volunteering for this organization, which has been called one of the best places to volunteer in the district by several publications, including Washingtonian Magazine and Washington Business Journal.

Wherever you are and however you decide to help those less fortunate this year, may the holidays find you warm and sheltered with loved ones.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!



Big News and A Special Holiday Message from Heather McCaw Art

This past Sunday, I dragged myself out of bed under the dark cloud of prospective house cleaning. (We are getting the house ready for my husband’s kids to come visit for the holidays). Draining my first cup of coffee, I fired up my computer and was amazed to find my chocolate doughnut painting was featured on the front page of Etsy! Look at the treasury here.

When I first joined Etsy and started inexpertly flailing around trying to sell my art online, I soon got the message that being on the Front Page is a kind of Holy Grail promising instant fame, a spike in views, and sales! I’ve since learned none of this is necessarily true, which leaves only one reason for desiring such recognition. In a word: validation.

Front Page

And you get to put one of these badges in your listing:


Okay. I know it’s a little silly.

Two years dragged by and I worked and worked on improving my shop while also cultivating a studio practice as an artist. I had numerous ups and downs. Sometimes I felt like I needed to give up on Etsy altogether because it just never seemed like my shop would take off. Then I would make a big sale and that would encourage me to hang in there. Etsy, even with its changing landscape and glut of listings, remains the most highly trafficked place on the internet featuring my artwork.

Lately, though, I’m not just “hanging in there.” I’ve had some fantastic successes. My work is now up on the site Buysomedamnart, another platform I’ve coveted, and my favorite design blog of all, Design*Sponge, recently featured another one of my  doughnut paintings in a blog post. To top it off, I also recently received a nice note informing me the  French webzine 3petitspoints Magazine had  posted my bread paintings on their Facebook page. Très chic!

Is it a coincidence that on the heals of all this outside success, I would finally make it to the Front Page? No idea. All I know is that, even though I think coveting FP success over everything else is naive and distracting, I still got a kick out of watching my views climb from 100 to 200… to 400 (!) in less than two hours. I felt a little like a rock star! So, I guess my point is that I’m okay with a little validation! :)

And then the rubber met the road…

I’ve sold five pieces since Thanksgiving, including this watercolor of storm clouds over a sailboat, which I painted while I was living in Florida.

Beach Art, Sailboat on Water Close to Shore, Clouds, Original Watercolor, 9 x 12 in. (22.86 x 30.48 cm)

Also, one of my bread paintings sold.

“Laugenbrötchen,” 2013, Gouache on Paper, 17 x 24 cm.

And my little kiwi:

Green Kiwi, on 140-lb. Cold-Pressed, Watercolor Paper, 3.5 x 5 in. (8.9 x 12.7 cm).

All of of these went to dear friends, which makes me very happy. I like the idea that my work is going to a “good home” and I may even get to visit it!

Before you offer some platitudes about how it shouldn’t be about money and it’s enough that I’m happy doing what I do, I’ll direct you to this very practical quote, floating around the internet lately:

“When you buy from an independent artist you are buying more than just a painting or a novel or a song. You are buying hundreds of hours of experimentation and thousands of failures. You are buying days, weeks, months, years of frustration and moments of pure joy. You are buying nights of worry about paying the rent, having enough money to eat, having enough money to feed the children, the birds, …the dog. You aren’t just buying a thing – you are buying a piece of heart, part of a soul, a private moment in someone’s life. Most importantly, you are buying that artist more time to do something they are truly passionate about; something that makes all of the above worth the fear and doubt; something that puts the life into living.” – Rebekah Joy Plett 

This is so true. The only thing I would add is that, when I sell a piece of work I’ve held on to for awhile, it frees me up to grow as an artist and move my work forward, exploring different ideas and subjects.

…A time for giving…

Also, now that I have a little money under my belt, I can give a donation to charity this holiday season that will come from me and the sweat of my brow alone and THAT feels great!

I’ve decided to give a gift to Miriam’s Kitchen in Washington D.C. If you want to help the homeless this holiday season and are looking for an effective, well-run organization that will use your money wisely, do check them out. I can vouch for them, having volunteered there and followed their story since living in the city.

The main selling point for me is that Miriam’s Kitchen is not only doing incredible work to feed and help homeless families get back on their feet, but they also offer art therapy sessions in addition to many other activities.

I’m so excited about helping them that I’ve also decided to donate 15% of my shop‘s proceeds through New Year’s, in addition to the gift I’ve already given.


I am so thankful that, even as a “starving artist” I enjoy the privilege of being in a position to give to others this Christmas. I could not feel richer than I do right now!

Happy Holidays!