Fragility (in art and life)

New Artwork

“the quality of being delicate or vulnerable.”

IMG_6447Inspired by my mentor teacher, Stacy, and the advanced art classes I co-taught with her last semester at Leland HS in San José, I decided to follow along with their course and create my own lino print. This process is not for the faint of heart and requires patience, planning, and precision for best results. The students learned about reduction printing this semester: a form of relief or block print in which the artist creates a multicolor image with different layers carved into a linoleum block. I used some of Stacy’s video resources and her knowledge to figure this out since I was not familiar with using this medium with more than one layer (examples at end of post).  

Reduction printing on a lino block taught me a great deal about the fragility of this medium and how to embrace the embedded challenges. Below I document the process, however, I wish I could have captured the struggle on video. Carving into a lino block can be difficult and eventually altered my original design a bit because of the limitations of the lino cutters and my lack of precision. I only cut myself one time, surprisingly, but came close to a few more (thank you to Stacy for the safety tips and wood base that held my lino block).

In the end, I’m happy with how the 16 prints turned out, the intention is apparent even if they are not exactly what I planned for. Each is uniquely itself and captures the fragility of this entire process (carving, inking, aligning, printing). Christian saw the saga unfold; he initially pointed out how he could visually sense the fragility of both the printing process and the subject (hummingbird feasting on a flower). Reduction printing is metaphorical to how nature or life, in general, is fragile, vulnerable, delicate. We can plan or design our path forward, but there is a greater force that might align or alter it differently than what was hoped for; this can be tragic at times or just slight enough that a different, not so bad opportunity arises. Whatever the case, it is humbling to remember how fragile my life is, my art is, and the lives around me (adults, babies, animals, birds, fishes, plants, etc.).

Here’s my process unfolded if you’re interested in how I created these prints.

Step 1: Design Sketch/Plan; think of composition choices, decide how many colors/layers, plan for applying lighter colors first.


Hummingbird feasting on sage plant, design for my reduction print

Step 1: Carve first layer after transferring sketch to block (reverse design so relief print will transfer in the correct orientation); print green layer.

I decided to create 20 prints, each varied. Some were more lime green. The image above got a little blue smudge but was my only example left of the layer on its own.

Step 2: Carve second layer (take away areas where I want the green to remain on the print); print pink layer.

The challenge really begins here when I have to align my pink layer to my green layer. A few were little off and look kind of trippy now after the other layers are on.

IMG_6438 copy

Second layer (pink) printed on first layer (green)

Step 3: Carve third layer (cutaway areas where I want pink to remain); print turquoise layer.

Here’s a view of my work station after I printed a bunch of the third layer onto the first and second colors. I mixed my own colors with block ink (using a palette knife); they are applied with a brayer (the roller tool seen below).


Step 4: Carve fourth layer; print dark purple layer. (Also, make ongoing design decisions, to keep certain areas one color or the other; and try not to break the skinny block pieces off so much…)

At this point (or maybe last step) I realize that I did not carve away the tiny white areas I intended to in my original design (the eye, lower belly, wing highlights, etc.). I slept on it and after a few days decided to go for a fifth layer and use white paint to hopefully create those finishing touches.

Step 5: Finicky and dreadful; carve away entire design except for the white parts; try to print white parts (image on right was my test, I ended up carving away more after prints 1-3).

In the end, it worked out okay. However, rolling on the white ink was difficult because there was barely any of the block raised to ensure a smooth application. I discovered that it came out best when I didn’t put as much pressure on it; I tried to quickly stamp this fifth layer on. 20 prints later, 16 with all layers (other four acted as the demo quadrant seen above). Apologies for the photos, they are not the best due to the lighting and my lack of caring to edit them :/ – enjoy!!

To compare a single layer block print, here are some prints I did of some CA poppies. I made them into cards earlier this year (with the help of Christian 🙂 ). This design was carved into a pink, rubbery-like block; it was way easier to carve into than the lino. I added colored pencil to a few of them.

And here’s another example of one layer block printing I did for a group of friends. We have been going to this house in Mendocino County for the past few years for our “Jughandle Retreat” (named after the nature reserve that is in walking distance from the house). I taught them how to make prints one of the nights there and they took the good ones home ;)…I kept the leftovers for fun.

The single layer prints can now be made over again, while the reduction print of the hummingbird is no longer duplicatable. If you read through this and want one, let me know, I’m thinking about selling them soon.

Valley Health Clinic Bascom Mural Project

New Artwork


The volunteer mural project is now over. 7 straight days, 43(ish) hours (plus 10 or so for design sketches and revisions), of working on the 22’ x 10’ wall was both physically and mentally challenging. I was completely absorbed by this project and time became more abstract than normal. By 6:15PM on 2/15/19 (the last day), part of me knew I needed to do more – maybe one more bubble or bright piece of coral. It’s such an interesting experience creating a giant piece of art that I can’t just casually keep working on at my own pace. There was a timeline, a goal to have it complete, so the space could be used again for the families who frequent the waiting room. It was art that wasn’t created for me, but for other people to enjoy and to interact with.

It was great to see and hear reactions from the staff at the clinic; I received very encouraging and kind words daily. I truly feel like I made a difference in this community. I wish I could be a fly on the wall to see and hear the clients/patients’ reactions to it. My hopes are that it enhances their experience while at the clinic, yet, I’ll never truly be able to measure any sort of impact. I guess that is the nature with public art.

Check out my instagram for in-progress shorts: @renae.patrice


The overall goal of this mural was to promote literacy and brighten up a space in a local health clinic. I first found out about it through a professor and advisor at San José State. Fortunately, I had the time and energy to contact the coordinator and commit to taking on this endeavor.

This particular clinic off Bascom Ave. in San José serves low-income families and partners with a bilingual team from Stanford to promote literacy and school readiness. A study is being conducted with some patients in which participants are receiving interactive texting strategies they can use to help their young children learn to read.

Stanford has initiated a few other mural project interventions at “safety net” clinics in which they revitalize the waiting rooms to bring a message of hope rather than despair. The vulnerable population that typically utilizes these types of local Silicon Valley clinics are often struggling with poverty and other disadvantages. Bright, colorful, inspiring murals bring a minute change that is needed in the usually sterile, white wall spaces. They promote interaction between children and their parents and encourage speaking, reading, and counting, among other things.

Unfortunately, many low-income health clinics’ walls and floors are often barren. Through this artistic and community-driven effort, these places can transform into a safe, inclusive, and educational space, healthy for families and the health workers who serve them daily.

Other mural work going on through Stanford’s affiliate clinics:

New Year, New Artwork

New Artwork

Happy New Year! …18 days later…


I’m already enjoying these new beginnings of 2019. I finished my teaching credential (preliminary) at the end of December, and officially filed my paperwork at SJSU this week! (Yay!) Now I’m starting to look for art teaching jobs around California – San José greater area, Sacramento…maybe even LA.

Last year, I seized the opportunity to add on an MA through the Interdisciplinary Studies major at San José State University. I will finish that this spring semester, focusing on metacognition (or thinking about your own thinking) within art education. More to come on that topic…

While finishing my Master’s degree, I will continue to substitute teach around San José and helping out at Drawn 2 Art’s studio in Los Altos. I’m “shopping” around at this moment (within the public & charter school systems) and getting a sense for how different schools function. I’m both excited and nervous about the new opportunities coming my way; however, I am most grateful for the experiences I’ve had so far in my student teaching and relationships I’ve made through SJSU’s teaching credential program. My student teaching experience last semester was particularly amazing, and I’m a little sad I can’t finish the semester with those students.


I had some time off to work on art once I returned from a 5-day trip to Florida for Christmas. I did a few other things, but for now here are some of my favorites to share with y’all:

This painting was made for my sister, Jenn; she wanted something for her office wall. Acrylic on loose canvas – about 46″ x 22″.

Ode to the hills of California….

These cat portraits are for my boyfriend’s sister, Hanna; they are basically her children. I was going for that retro 70s/80s portrait feel with two angles of the cats. Conté crayon on black paper, 8.5″ x 11″.

Works/San José Gallery had an open call for artists to enter portraits in the form of a square. I had 4 mini canvases (4″ x 4″) and used them to create an autobiographical portrait of me and Christian to celebrate our love, squared. This painting was particularly challenging, but I think I more or less captured our gazes and expressions. It will be on display in the SJ downtown gallery from Jan. 25 – mid-February.

Weeping Land, revisited

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I recreated my Weeping Land piece and donated it to local nonprofit gallery Works/San José‘s for their annual auction fundraiser. The last day to bid is this Saturday, Dec. 2 by 6PM. If you’re in the area, please check it out – there are so many great artists who have something showing in the gallery.


My artist statement from the show:

Being a curious individual, I often ask myself questions about the intricate designs of the world, observing and appreciating the detailed environment around me. In the past four years, I have been turning these explorations into my own creative interpretations.

The acrylic painting series I’ve been developing lately is called “LandEscapes”; in it I focus on natural landforms, utilizing bright colors, contrasting values, and line. Through these paintings, I hope to bring to light environmental elements that are around us, allowing space for viewers to feel a familiar connection to the earth.

The flagship of the LandEscape series was the inspiration for this artwork you see today – a new reincarnation of the original piece “Weeping Land”. I wanted to express how nature is greatly affected by human development and exploitation. As I was creating this, people everywhere were feeling the results of some awful natural disasters: hurricanes, earthquakes, and wildfires. I weep for them, I weep with them.

But I also challenge us all to face the realities of climate change and to get involved to make a needed difference in our communities.

80% of proceeds from this piece will go to support the great things Works/San José is doing; 20% will be sent to help with California wildfire relief to the Community Foundation of Sonoma County.


Here’s the original I did back in 2012:



Movin’ On Up

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Yin and Birds – Digital Artwork by Renae McCollum 2016

This artwork represents how I’m trying to see the world. My world, and all of yours. A place full of balance, freedom, peace and justice. It’s hard to imagine it though, and even harder to believe in it. I realize it’s just a dream, but perhaps a dream we all have in common? I can only hope.

Deep down I have to trust that all of humanity is rooted in the same desire to live in harmony with one another. We are all just a bunch of living, breathing organisms sharing the same resources and creating systems to “deal” with our surroundings. My hope one day is that we collectively can find a way to live respectfully and peacefully with each other AND with our own planet – to stop exploiting and abusing each other and our natural resources. It’s more than tolerance, more than acceptance, but real support, understanding, and unity. We have so much more in common than we realize…but I know it’s hard at the moment.

As for now, I can only keep the hope alive through art and music and kindness.

Perhaps Curtis Mayfield’s song “Move On Up” is the best thing for everyone to listen to right now. Such a gem 🙂 We’ll Move On Up…Enjoy!

Hush now child, and don’t you cry
Your folks might understand you, by and by
Move on up, toward your destination
You may find from time to time

Bight your lip, and take a trip
Though there may be wet road ahead
And you cannot slip
So move on up for peace will find
Into the steeple of beautiful people
Where there’s only one kind

So hush now child, and don’t you cry
Your folks might understand you, by and by
Move on up, and keep on wishing
Remember your dream is your only scheme
So keep on pushing

Take nothing less, than the second best
Do not obey, you must keep your say
You can past the test
Just move on up, to a greater day
With just a little faith
If you put your mind to it you can surely do it


LandEscapes 6 – you rock, rock.

New Artwork

Well, here it is, the latest of the series – inspired from Castle Rock S.P. in the Santa Cruz Mountains. Got my hands on a new acrylic pen…and new acrylic paints – courtesy of Riley Street Art Supply in Santa Rosa 🙂

Stay Tuned for more as the journey continues.


Also, I became a member of a gallery in San José to explore the local art scene. It’s called Works/San José and they happened to be having a member exhibition called Vote Your Subconscious. I entered a small piece from an earlier LandEscapes blog entry. It will be on display until Sept. 11 and is tucked away, right next to a lively painting of the Donald. Contrasting beauties I guess…I’m grateful to have my escapism from this crazy world sometimes.

LandEscapes 5 – more rockscape

New Artwork


I’m almost done with this next painting in my series. It’s based off a striking rock I met while hiking in Utah about 5 years ago. If you look closely the rock that looks like a face also is comprised of figures. There are some final touches that still need to be done, but I thought I’d share my newest creation.

Next up, I’m moving on from my red rock pallet and will transition into some more aquatic and forested landscapes. Stay tuned!

LandEscapes updates and t-shirt graphics

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There has been a delay in this series, but it will continue soon, hopefully next week if time allows. I’ve been busy working on a few portrait drawings for a good friend, some sweet graphics for work and a few designs for a friend’s wedding this weekend (I’ll be updating my portfolio in the next few days, so stay tuned).

I finished this 4th painting over a month ago, by adding more lines and texture to the ground… about time I show it off 🙂


I have a few sketches worked out for the next two paintings; they’ll be smaller then these last two featuring the red rocks of Utah, but hopefully just as intriguing.


In March I designed a t-shirt for the non-profit organization I work for; here’s the sketch I based it off of. The leaf at the top is part of the logo and is shown asymmetrically in the final design to give those astute viewers something to find.



Breathe easy 🙂