The Art of the “Acrylic Pour”

It’s sometimes fun to venture out of your comfort zone and try something completely foreign. It may make you uncomfortable. It may even feel risky. On occasion, I take that step away from writing and try a new creative experience.

I’ve blogged about my zentangle adventure in a post called “A Cup of Creativity Tea.” My meager achievements are pictured in the post. But what I loved was the peaceful moving of the acrylic pen, the change of pattern, the repetition, the flow, the supreme quiet of the room as the group worked, each absorbed in their own process.

I recently experienced the “acrylic pour.” I donned a utility apron and sat down at an oilcloth-covered table with two artist friends, one experienced in “the pour” and acting as our teacher. In front of each of us sat a small artist’s canvas (with a pushpin in each corner on the underside so it would sit level and dry evenly when completed as it sat in a drip pan), tubes and bottles of acrylic paints, white glue, water, floetrol, and treadmill oil. In addition, there were small plastic cups, large plastic glasses, ice cream sticks, several cut-off 8 oz. water bottles to form pliable, disposable pitchers, and a heat gun, plus a roll of paper towels.

The process began with selecting five paints, mixing each one in its own small cup with glue, floetrol, water if needed, and treadmill oil, and blending the mixture with an ice cream stick to a smooth pouring consistency. Then we took each small cup of paint, one after the other, and poured some of its contents, alternating layer by layer, into a water bottle pitcher. We made some layers thick and some thin. When done layering, we took an ice cream stick and cut a deep X in the paint as it sat in the disposable pitcher.

Then we began to slowly pour the paint in circles onto the canvas like the rings of a tree, adding smaller circles outside of the large circle’s circumference until the paint was poured. Then we tipped the canvas from side to side to cover the surface and the sides. I loved this part, watching the design move, change, expand and contract, bring one color to the foreground, then another, making cells and flows. I stopped the tipping process when I liked the design.


Blending light green, dark green, purple, pink, and white.

For the second canvas, we mixed our paints as before and layered them into a large plastic glass. This time we held the canvas over the glass and tipped everything upside down, ending with the glass full of paint sitting on top of the canvas. Then we slowly lifted the glass, allowing the paint to escape and flow onto the canvas until the glass was empty. We again tipped the canvas from side to side watching the designs until we liked what we saw. We sealed each finished piece with a heat gun, used sparingly, and placed them in a tray to drip and dry.

Here’s a blending of light blue, darker blue, aqua, gold, and white. Notice what happens as you turn the piece and look at the finished design from different perspectives.

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It was a failsafe experience. If I were to do it again, I would mix black, white, gold, light green, and dark green.

Photographing these with my cell phone camera was also interesting. Different room lighting would totally highlight a different color. In real time, these look bluer to me. Fascinating.

All in all, I liked doing an acrylic pour. My workstation attested to the fact that I had enjoyed myself. I have the honor of being the messiest painter in the room. Table, hands, arms, apron, and floor all showed my handiwork. Thank you to artist Nettie Roberts for your teaching and to artist Lynn Centeno for going on the journey with me.

From a writer’s viewpoint, acrylic pours would make great covers for journals and, depending on the book, an interesting book cover.

If you want to try this technique, I suggest this website. Essential Supplies for Acrylic Pouring.

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How do you feel about birthdays?

How do you feel about birthdays? Reactions seem to depend on where you are on the age spectrum. You may be happy about a birthday. You may be happy but feeling a bit depressed. You may be happy but can’t help being amazed.  You may be totally startled.

The four points on the birthday spectrum look something like this:

Happy Birthdays 

Age 1 – you learn parties are fun.
Age 16 – you’re old enough to obtain a driver’s license and drive a car.
Age 21 – you’re old enough to buy alcohol legally and say, “Let’s go party!”

Happy/Depressing Birthdays

The Big 4-0
The Big 5-0

These birthdays are traditionally honored by someone giving you a big party with lots of jokes – of which you are the star.

Happy/Amazing B-days

A retirement birthday.
A senior discount birthday.
A Social Security/Medicare eligibility birthday.

These are any birthdays 55 and after, when you ask, “Geez, when did this happen?”

Happy/Startling B-days

 Any birthday after about the 70th or 75th.

This is when you say, “Wahoo! I’m still on this side of the grass! Let’s go party!”

In the words of this fashionista …


Image courtesy of Design, Design, Inc.

You never want to admit how many you’ve had.


Whether you admit to birthdays or not, whether you like them or not, you can’t avoid them. So you might as well enjoy all the external trappings and traditions: surprise parties, birthday dinners, cakes, cards, presents, family, friends.

But let’s not forget the internal trappings – who you are as a person, whatever your age. The list below works. Gentlemen, simply substitute the word handsome.


Image courtesy of Hallmark


The moral? Wear your birthdays with pride, wherever you are on the spectrum!
You’re fabulous!

(Images are from cards my nieces sent, helping to “make” my recent B-day.)

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Earthquakes and Primary Research

Okay, this is bizarre. It’s about 6 p.m. in the evening. I’m working at the computer on a short story titled “The Phone Call.” It opens with a woman standing in her kitchen drinking a cup of coffee when an earthquake occurs. (The quake becomes a metaphor for what will happen in her life.)

At the moment, I’m focusing on three aspects of the story. First, what happens in the character’s immediate environment? For example, the room lurches. A silverware drawer slides open. Pots and pans rattle on an overhead rack. A box of cereal falls to the floor, scattering its contents.

Next, what happens to the character physically? I play with various manifestations. Increased heart rate, sweaty palms, a bathrobe suddenly too warm. Perhaps she clenches her eyes. Or screams. Perhaps she flees the room, one of the human responses to fear. Perhaps she freezes.

Finally, what happens to the character mentally? Maybe she thinks about being buried in debris. She pleas for the quake to stop. She becomes disoriented, confused. She’s sorry for recent words with a lover. Or maybe she simply shakes it off as another California shaker. Or is it?

What happens next is the bizarre part. At 6:24 p.m., a 4.4 quake takes place in real time, the epicenter about 55 miles from where I live. It sounds like marching feet that become louder and then stomp through the room, creating a jolt. At that moment I become a primary research source.



Night at the Metamorphic Mountains by artist George Hunter Tyneside


You should know earthquakes scare me. They give me a real sense of something bigger than myself, than humanity … with way more destructive might. They’re the reason there’s an earthquake kit under the bed along with a special wrench to shut off the gas, and clothes and an old pair of tennies.

Back to the quake. I try to capture the sounds. Very few except the rumble and the jolt. I try to capture what I did. I know I froze momentarily, listening, deciding my next move should I see or hear damage. But then the quake stopped. I only noted when it began, not its duration, probably less than a minute, more like seconds. I do know I was preparing to take off, run down the hall, find my husband. I became a combination of fight and flight.

What did my body do? It tensed, with all systems working overtime. My breathing, my nervous energy, my heart. Suddenly, I felt very alert.

After the quake stopped, and hoping there would be no aftershocks, I went back to the short story I was working on when the quake started, feeling more affinity with the main character than before. I became closer to the thoughts and actions she experiences during the fictitious quake, but more importantly to her actions after the event as her life takes on its destructive path and thoughts.

While doing secondary research, I’d read about earthquakes and how people may react mentally and physically. Primary research is research you collect yourself. At 6:24 p.m., I became prime material.

P.S. My husband didn’t feel a thing.



Courtesy of


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Be Your Own Hero

In this day and age, I’m looking for anchors, things to hang on to when the seas get rough. You know, quick words of encouragement or inspiration to deal with the political chaos and power struggles occurring in our society, whatever your leanings. To deal with the deluge of events, the drench of media. I’m looking for heroes. Or, if they are in short supply, perhaps it’s time we are our own heroes or, at least, our own cheering section.



Courtesy of


While reading an L.A. Times article about the history of various buildings that have housed the newspaper, I learned of a motto the paper once used. It was written by Eliza Ann Wetherby who was a journalist herself and wife of the paper’s then-publisher Harrison Otis Gray. The Times motto?

Stand fast, stand firm, stand sure, stand true.

The motto seems appropriate for newspaper and media folk seeking facts and truth; for those expecting blowback and challenge.

I thought about the motto and how it might apply to individuals like you and me. I dug a little deeper into definitions via online and hardcover dictionaries:

Stand fast – be true to your principles, values, beliefs
Stand firm – be emphatic, resolute
Stand sure – have full confidence
Stand true – be or remain consistent

In other words, have the courage of your convictions. In some situations, it may be appropriate to remain steadfast. For example, among my core values, I believe in separation of church and state, ethical behavior, and the rule of law. But in some situations, it may be appropriate to be open and have strategies to serve the greater good. I would add three more points.

 Be open to new thoughts, ideas, and change
Be open to negotiation and compromise
Be ready to peacefully coexist

End of “be your own hero” #1




Image courtesy of Children read to animals in a shelter. 


While reading the book A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles, I found a sentence that I could not forget.

“If a man does not master his circumstances then he is bound to be mastered by them.”  Count Alexander Roston

Shortened, it means to control the circumstances of your life or they will control you. When things go awry, get out in front of them.  Sometimes fate, luck, and destiny may interfere. It’s good to have a Plan B to be able to adjust. When I taught theatre, I encouraged the actors and crew to always have a Plan B … for the unexpected.

Think of an ordinary day you have perfectly planned – a hair appointment followed by lunch with a friend followed by an appointment for, say, an oil change. All you need is one flat tire anywhere in the mix to throw the day. That’s a boo-hoo circumstance. You call AAA and text whoever is affected and get on with it.

In Count Roston’s case, it was a lifetime circumstance – of house arrest. In other words, a serious challenge, a result of the political upheaval around him. He got out in front of it to survive. How he did so makes for an extraordinary read. He controlled his circumstance to the best of his ability.

End of “be your own hero” #2



Image courtesy of


The short story collection I’m assembling, working title Racing from the Dark, chronicles everyday people dealing with life, some more heroically than others. A tentative quote I’m considering for the book’s beginning comes from Anais Nin – author, essayist, and diarist (1903-1977) who offers another set of words I like.

Life shrinks or expands according to one’s courage.

We need courage, we need to take risks to grow. Each of us has personal challenges and we have challenges as a society. We want to ask ourselves what’s necessary to expand and enrich our personal lives and those around us. As a nation, we need to ask ourselves the same.

End of “be your own hero” #3



Image courtesy of


Seeking ways to be our own heroes, no matter the situations around us is an ongoing goal. If we’re all our own heroes, perhaps that aura will trickle upward, outward, and across society. We don’t want time to run out.

A few lines from this Native American blessing seem appropriate as we make our personal journeys, seeking heroes inside and out.

Hold on to what is good even if it is a handful of earth.
Hold on to what you believe even if it is a tree which stands by itself.
Hold on to what you must do even if it is a long way from here.

Pueblo Blessing

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The California Driver’s Knowledge​ Test …

You can’t imagine yourself without a car, especially in southern California. Being in your vehicle, driving wherever you want is second nature. But one day you receive a letter from the DMV two months before your birthday to notify you it’s time to renew your driver’s license. The first thought that comes into your mind is … What? Already? I just took that test. No, you didn’t. You last took it five years ago. Acceptance settles in slowly. You know your fate is sealed, as the cliche goes. You know, if you want to keep driving, you have to take the test. I want to keep driving.



Loved my Arctic Blue VW bug with a sunroof. It’s long gone but appreciate Proboards for the image.


The first step? You need to go to the Department of Motor Vehicles to get the latest California Driver Handbook, which I do. When I arrive at the DMV, I enter through a set of double glass doors. Then, seeing another set of double glass doors straight ahead, I push on through them. I see lines and people and hop in the nearest line which happens to be the shortest. After I acclimate to the mob scene – it’s a Friday afternoon – I realize I’m standing in the Disabled or Appointment Only line. I step out of line rather sheepishly, feeling a bit like I’ve stolen a loaf of bread, and step into another, longer line.

In Friday DMV shock, I keep thinking, All I want is a manual. There’s gotta be a better way. At this rate, I’ll be here until Monday. I try to catch the eye of a Security Guard, but he’s involved answering questions for someone else. Finally, I wave and he steps on over. I ask about the manuals .”Oh, they’re out in the lobby,” he says and walks away to help another hapless soul.



Had a lot of fun with my canary yellow Datsun 240Z. Thank you to for the image


The lobby? Oh, hell. In my great haste, I’d entered the DMV through a set of double glass doors, my eyes immediately focusing on another set of double glass doors straight ahead. I’d looked neither left nor right. I discover the small lobby, and there, on a side wall in various racks, are all sorts of manuals and pamphlets. I grab my summer read and leave.

You and I both know this manual will be as exciting as watching paint dry or grass grow, but with a stiff upper lip, I begin to read. Whoa! A few pages into the read comes “a grabber.” Changes are afoot. To fly domestically or enter a federal facility or military base a REAL ID Driver License or ID card will be needed beginning October 1, 2020. Oh, boy.

I continue reading and studying the nuts and bolts of driving in California until I’m ready to ply my trade on some online Practice Tests. There are two sample tests of 10 questions each in the manual but I need the hard liquor option of 16 online tests of 36 multiple choice questions each. My self-testing begins to mixed reviews. I learn I have to read each word, no skimming, no anticipating, no over-confidence allowed. You need to read each damn word.



When the Miata first came on the market, there was high demand and not enough product. Dealers charged a bounty to get you one faster than going through months of waiting. (I paid the bounty.) Thanks to YouTube for the image.


All cynicism and aborted humor aside, these tests are invaluable. Nothing like repetition to enforce an idea. And every time your radar recognizes a question you haven’t seen before, your brain goes on red alert – something new here. I sing the praises of repetition, reinforcement, variations on a theme. All help to drive the information home. When the test is scored and, if you’ve made an error, the correct answer is posted with the rationale.

You know this studying process ends in a test. I go online to to schedule an appointment. You can have your choice of DMV location. Then with the click of a few more keys, you can select your date and time. When the big day arrives, you pay a renewal fee, take the written test, take a vision test, and have your thumbprint and photo taken. Ah, what fun. (I pray my picture will look somewhat human.) Depending on your age, you may be able to renew online.

The California Driver Handbook states driving is a privilege. Leaving the philosophical debate to others, driving is something I want to keep doing. I enjoy cars. (I shared a few.) I like to drive. I can’t imagine life without a car. So I’ll keep studying, renewing, and doing whatever is necessary to be licensed to drive legally in California. May the testing gods be forever kind.

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Elegant Ladies of the Desert

I live in a valley in the California desert – home of the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, R.C. Gorman sunsets, and palm trees. Areas of the valley’s desert may be unspoiled and unpopulated or highly groomed with burgeoning populations. Whatever its state, palm trees are part of the landscape.

The palms may be ornamental, architectural, or utilitarian. They may be wild and untended as nature planned. I’m intrigued by their unique identity and power to survive the extremes of temperature and high-velocity winds. I’m amazed at their mystery, rising from scrub and sand. They exude a sense of wisdom and agelessness, with a touch of timeless beauty. They inspire a small tribute . . .


elegant ladies
dress in their high couture skirts 
to waltz with the wind 

                                                                                                                                                                      Carol Mann 2018



Desert Oasis by artist Naomi Brown

Version 2

Waiting for Coachella – photo by Carol Mann

Thank you for stopping by. Feel free to add your thoughts, perhaps a haiku . . .


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My Father’s Autograph

We didn’t have yearbooks in elementary school. When the “big kids” were signing each other’s yearbooks at the end of the year, we young kids looked on longingly. But we were resourceful. We each had small autograph books which we circulated near the end of the school year. One day I realized the other kids were having not only their friends sign but their families, too. The object became who could collect the most autographs.

In an effort to increase my numbers, I asked my father to sign my book. Little did I realize his autograph would be the one I would remember long after I’d forgotten the others. This is what he wrote:

As you sail down the stream of life
In your little birch canoe,
May you have a jolly time,
And room enough for two.

As I read this autograph now, I’m moved by the wish for a happy life for me. He also told me I could be anything I wanted to be … as long as it was legal.


My dad, born in 1900, at age 23.

He left other words for me, not in an autograph book, but in advice. When I heard the words as a young person, I probably rolled my eyes or shrugged in typical daughter fashion. But he’d be happy to know I heard them and still carry them with me.

Take care of your car and your car will take care of you.

 Never buy the best house on the block.

Never buy on the edge of a development.

 Look after your money and your money will look after you.

Always keep learning.

He illustrated the “always keep learning” mantra with behavior more than with words. He was an active reader of literature and how-to journals and magazines. He was a letter writer to newspaper editors, city, state, and national leaders. He took correspondence courses. He reinvented himself a number of times … from banking, to accountant, to entrepreneur, to real estate broker. He was the source of my own “reinvention gene.”

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My dad, pictured in the middle with his brothers, was the oldest of six – three boys and three girls. When I see his intense look, I can’t help thinking he’s channeling actor William Holden or writer F. Scott Fitzgerald.

Mostly, my dad valued being of good character and impressed that on me. Born in the province of Ontario, Canada, the eldest son of a successful farmer and cattle drover, my father entered the workforce at 16 … in banking. Below are excerpts from a letter he wrote to the manager of the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce in 1991, when a call came out in a local newspaper for information on the history of the bank. I think character comes through. (I’ve omitted paragraphs naming all the managers and employees and a description of the structure.)

Early in 1916 I became an employee of the Imperial Bank of Canada, Humberstone Branch. About two years later I was transferred to the Port Colborne branch.

My starting salary at age 16 was $300.00 per year. Each additional year of employment would be accompanied by a $100.00 raise. A condition of my employment was that my father and my uncle each provide Imperial Bank a bond of $7,000.00 covering me.

A short time after Mr. Rolph, manager at the Port Colborne Branch, also became manager of the Humberstone Branch where I worked, an event occurred that involved both branches. The bank safe in Humberstone, which had a time clock combination, failed to open on a Monday morning following the bank’s closing the previous Friday afternoon. It had been set mistakenly to open Monday evening. The situation was explained early by phone to Mr. Rolph at home, as soon as the first employee arrived and discovered the problem.

Mr. Rolph quickly arrived at the Humberstone Branch and went into action,  immediately inquiring who had locked the safe the previous Friday. One of the bookkeepers said he did. Mr. Rolph gave said bookkeeper a short but blistering dressing down about his responsibilities and the position into which he had placed the bank. Mr. Rolph then told me to arm myself with the bank’s revolver, get on my bicycle, and go pick up a package wrapped in newspaper from the Imperial Bank – Port Colborne Branch, strap it onto the luggage carrier of the bicycle, and get back as quickly as possible. I carried out my instructions, and the Humberstone Branch opened on time with money ready for its customers – as if nothing had happened.

A day or two later Mr. Rolph told me that the bookkeeper’s mistake could have happened to almost any of the bank’s employees. He confessed it had once happened to him. He said the reason he was so emphatic with the bookkeeper was to impress him so much it would not happen again. I knew he was also telling me something important.

The Humberstone Branch had a sub-branch at Marshville, Ontario, open one day a week.  To me the weekly trip with the manager to Marshville was a semi-holiday. It provided a break from the ordinary routine. The manager was a careful driver. If the road was muddy, wet or slippery, he would go slowly. But if the road was dry, the speed limit to him was the top speed the bank’s Ford could make – 40 mph. At this speed, the touring car’s top would billow out and a rolling mound of dust would follow the car and make quite a show. He often allowed me to drive.

About the time of the Imperial Bank’s safe locking episode, an event of my own causing happened. It happened one busy Friday when a customer walked in and shoved a check for $400.00 in the teller’s cage wicket and said, “All in twenty dollar bills, please.” He seemed to be in a hurry. I checked by referring to one of the bank’s ledgers that there were ample funds in the account to cover the check. I then discovered the packet containing twenties was nearly empty and that I would have to open a new packet. After this, I counted out 30 twenty dollar bills and shoved them out the wicket to the customer with the remark that he could, if he liked, check it before leaving the bank. He said, “No time now, but if it’s wrong, you’ll hear from me.” He then walked out.

After the bank closed for the weekend, I attempted to balance the cash and found out it was $200.00 short. After further checking, I discovered my error of giving the customer six hundred rather than four hundred dollars. I reported the mistake to the manager. He told me to call the customer. I called the man’s office but was told he was not in. I was told by my manager to call that office again Monday first thing.

Monday morning arrived, but before I could call the customer, he walked in the bank, said good morning and told me he had some money for me. I told him I hoped it was two hundred dollars. It was all there. I thanked him profusely and praised him for his honesty. He assured me anyone could make a mistake – it’s part of learning – and walked out.

I regard the two years with Imperial Bank a real college course in business.

My dad wrote the next few words in a separate note to me:


I wasn’t going to include the portion about the two hundred dollar overpayment, but without it, the letter seemed to make me some sort of a hero of Imperial Bank.

Thank you,



My dad at 97 in 1997.

Thank you, to you Dad, for teaching me valuable words and imparting to me the value of character and behavior. I’ll close with Happy Father’s Day to you!

I know you can hear me.

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