Posted on

5 days of watercolor at the SFSU Sierra Nevada Field School

I first heard of Andie Thrams from a friend (who also happens to be an incredible artist, Courtney Cerruti). A bunch of us took a workshop with Andie at the Tilden Park botanical garden in Berkeley and I knew I wanted to learn more from her. Then a few months ago I saw that she would be teaching watercolors up in the Sierras and I started figuring out how to get myself there as well as to get baby care coverage for 5 whole days!! (many many thanks to my amazing husband and parents!!!)

The whole experience was awesome, from camping out on the SFSU field campus, eating hot meals in the canteen, having class at a different site each day in the Gold Lakes Basin area… No Instagram, no cell reception, no internet at all. No distraction. I’d wake up at 6am, get some coffee, start painting outside my tent and take a deep breath. I’m feeling a bit of culture shock now being back in the Bay Area suburbs that I call home. Each day focused on a different theme or technique. Day 1 – color, day 2 – line, day 3 – composition and so on. Here are some of the work and play that I produced. I cannot say enough good things about the people I met (the other classes happening concurrently included mycology and bird identification by song), the organizers, and of course our lovely instructor Andie.

color studies: leaves, soil/bark, flowers
color studies: leaves, soil/bark, flowers


study of leaves, color, and glazing (with quinacridone gold), drawing in veins with a cream color pencil


study of line, practice the motions of mark making with pine needles
study of line, practice the motions of mark making of pine needles


wet into wet play, a good way to start background blurry colors (this feels a little bob ross to me, but oh well), I’d build on top of this over a few days


setting up in a field of mule's ears
setting up in a field of mule’s ears


before deciding what to focus on, talking a little walk around, sketching and quick color study can help me decide where to settle in
before deciding what to focus on, we’d take a little walk around, sketching and quick color study helped me decide where to settle in


this plant is appropriately called paint brush
this plant is appropriately called paint brush


fell in love with wispy plants and grasses
fell in love with wispy plants and grasses


baby hands
back at home, my studio helper assists with photography


brilliant pink penstemon and rock at Fraizer Falls
brilliant pink penstemon and rocks at Frazier Falls

penstemon penstemon2 penstemon3


lichen - exemplifies lots of techniques, wet into wet, dry brush details layered on top, gouache details, glazing...
lichen, instructed step by step by Andie Thrams – exemplifies lots of techniques, wet into wet, dry brush details layered on top, gouache details, glazing…


flowers and rocks, detail


Evening painting at camp, 3x3 grid suggested by Andie. I like this because you can see the light fading over time, from green to blue
Evening painting at camp, 3×3 grid suggested by Andie. I like this because you can see the light fading over time, from green to blue


painting site for the day
painting site for one of the days…I didn’t want it to end.

Lots more studies and paintings done, lots in progress, I would love to return again next year.

Posted on

tendril wild: a collaborative art project & zine

I could not be happier with tendril wild, a collaborative art show and zine currently at Fayes Video & Espresso Bar, 3614 18th St, SF, CA. On view May 1-31.

Paintings by me (Alicia Dornadic) / Words by Tomas Moniz



Installation view. Work is available for purchase through Fayes. We believe in affordable art. Prices range $45-150 for original artwork and $10 for the zine which includes all 14 fruit poems and images.


Yesterday was the opening reception: Saturday, May 7th 4-7pm

Huge thank you to special guests Courtney Cerruti, Ajuan Mance, & Baruch Porras-Hernandez for sharing their work with us. 

Courtney Ajuan Baruch

Select works from the show:





Artist Statement:

Paint the same fruit every day and you’ll discover a different story each time. I watch how a banana turns from starchy green to bright yellow to spotted brown and this changes my interpretation of it. I mirror this constant change with the loose sketchy quality of my watercolors, which also suggests studies that are never quite finished but merely represent this one moment in time.

In my life, I deeply associate things that we grow with certain people, places and times. Sweet peas are my grandmother tending to her garden; pomegranates are my mother in autumn. Painting each fruit evokes these memories and relationships. So it seemed natural to me that fruit imagery would then lend itself to storytelling, to recounting the past, and as such, would complement Tomas’ writing.

Even the language of fruit – bruised, ripe, spoiled – implies a link to bodies and our experiences. Fruit gives us moments from the past that explain our scars and show how we are marked by those we encounter. They reveal deep human connections. Blueberries are “like nipples after breastfeeding / fat & bursting / like earlobes after a warm bath / gushy & innocent” or figs, “purpled skin & pink fleshy insides / tasting the coldness of february during the dying heat of october.”

These collaborative pieces clearly show two hands at work, contrasting washes of paint that run into grids of tight scratchy text. The viewer’s eye passes from words to image and back, where each changes the interpretation of the other. I could never achieve this dual nature by myself, so I am grateful that Tomas overcame his ambivalence towards his handwriting and saw that it is in fact idiosyncratic and beautiful.

Finally, for me, the collaborative aspect runs deeper to include other artists who have depicted classic still-life subjects – flowers and fruit – over millennia. A lineage of oranges, of irises, reinterpreted time and time again, changing our associations with the subject and our understanding of ourselves.

See more on Instagram: @adorndesign #tendrilwild

Posted on

From…To…Happy New Year!

from me to us

from expecting to mothering

from “I’m still learning to be an adult” to “making it work”

from squirming to rolling to crawling to walking to climbing, and falling in between

from consulting meetings at 2pm to watercolors at 2am

from earbuds and daydreaming to singing aloud and being happy if you know it

from 8-mile hikes to playing in the leaves

from lazy Saturdays to ceramic pigs

from a movie and a cocktail at the Kabuki to the 1970s Robin Hood animation at home one, two, three, hundred times

from Hawaii to France to Yosemite and back

from sleeping through the night to waking up every two hours to back to sleeping through the night (knock wood)

from brunch at Plow and coffee at Farley’s to brunch at Plow and coffee at Farley’s

from this year to next, may the ride continue

happy new year!!

Posted on

SF Artist Spotlight: New Works by Chelsea Ryoko Wong

“She’s the next Maira Kalman,” Courtney whispers in my ear, “And if you don’t buy it I will.” We are standing in front of “Gossip Girls Selling Veggies on Mahabandoola Street, Yangon” and she is referring to San Francisco-based artist Chelsea Ryoko Wong who is currently in a two-woman show Hello At Last with Mia Christopher at the recently relocated Legion shop in Chinatown, San Francisco.

The piece is a celebration of women, food, and the marketplace. The colors shout out to passersby and the level of detail beckons the viewer to approach, to examine each slice of melon, each flower closeup. There is something about the vibrant scenes, flattened hierarchy and level of detail that are reminiscent of Persian miniature painting. Wong later tells us that she fell in love with this marketplace in Myanmar (Burma). “The women are the queens of the streets and you could tell they have the power,” her eyes ablaze when describing this scene.

I first met Chelsea when she dropped off artwork for #strikeawayshow a show of matchbook art which I co-curated with Courtney Cerruti in May 2015.

"Smokin' Hot Redheads Zine," 2015 Matchbook, ink, gouache. Xerox accordian fold zine. Matches.
“Smokin’ Hot Redheads Zine,” 2015
Matchbook, ink, gouache. Xerox accordian fold zine. Matches.

We fell in love with her work immediately and asked, “Um, can you make, like, six more?” “Sure!” Wong’s enthusiasm and easy-going nature make her a delight to work with. Later at the opening of Hello At Last, we see her play and gush when two little kids present her with a pink carnation. “Pink! Matches my bag, cute don’t you think?”

Another piece that called me in for a closer look was “Boys Becoming Novices, Going Forth.”

"Boys Becoming Novices, Going Forth," 2015 Gouache, water color and colored pencil on paper (9” x 12”)
“Boys Becoming Novices, Going Forth,” 2015
Gouache, water color and colored pencil on paper, 9” x 12”

Its gentle visual rhythm evokes the chanting of monks. The white, simultaneously energetic and meditative, leaps off the paper. And again, those details! Tiny scissors, candlesticks, and incense conjure sounds and smells, a before and after, of the scene.

Whether her subjects recall faraway places or near, people you know or people you want to be, they are all a celebration of life and everyday people.

Ceramics, 2015
Ceramics, 2015

The show includes a mix of original artwork, prints and ceramics. The functional pieces, again a nod to food and domesticity, a playful boost to an otherwise quotidian object, are well-paired with Mia Christopher’s larger abstract paintings.


The show runs until 11/30. Curated by Alice Wu. On view at Legion Shop, 678 Commercial St, San Francisco, CA 94111. I encourage you to check it out! M-F 11-6, Sat 1-5, closed Sunday. Photos courtesy of Chelsea R. Wong and @ccerruti.

Posted on

Work Smarter not Harder…or just don’t work at all?

So I just graduated from my graphic design program and am about to re-enter the workforce. The last time I graduated college, back in May 2009, I was trying to find a job in the worst economic crisis since the ’29 stockmarket crash with a degree I didn’t have all my faith in. Now, thankfully the circumstances are pretty different and I am starting a job… tomorrow!

Embarking on this new career, I can’t help but think of my grandfather who worked for the same company for over 35 years. However, this notion of working for one company for your whole life seems to be shifting. I know so many people around my age (pushing 30) that are working just to save money so they can quit their job and travel around Europe/volunteer in Africa/be some sort of nomad. This is whether they are high-paying white collar jobs or low-paying service industry jobs.

This isn’t really an original concept, there are plenty of articles (here’s one) explaining the work ethic or lack thereof of “millennials.” I know, I hate that word too. They explain it’s not necessarily about work-life balance, it’s more about living your life now.

I agree, but I also think it’s more than that. It is the way that companies hire you, especially in the more tech-y industries. As a graphic/ux/visual designer, it is pretty common to work on contract. In return for their non-commitment, the company is kinda saying, “hey let’s hang out for a bit, and see how it goes before things get too serious. We won’t be mad if you end up working somewhere else at the end of this contract.” And it makes sense except for pesky things like healthcare, made less pesky because of things like obamacare.

This mutual non-commitment trickles down to other parts of our lives. If you don’t have the commitment of a 30 year job, it’s hard to commit to a 30 year house mortgage. So that’s where tiny living comes in. For the price of a car, you can buy/build a house. You just need to find someone’s backyard to plop it in.

There was also that article going around Facebook about that woman who has been “on vacation” for 3 years. Really what she did was save up money, quit her job, travel to mostly cheap but tropical destinations, and work her way around with odd jobs while staying on friends’ couches. I put this under the category of “feel good stories that make you feel bad about yourself.” Eat Pray Love falls under the same category. That’s great for people who can swing it but what grinds my gears is when she says, “I don’t understand why more people don’t do this.” Well how can you not understand it? That’s not a super easy lifestyle. And people have things like partners, friends, family, or maybe even kids.

This non-commitment isn’t really sustainable. Is there a time where we have to grow up, bite the bullet, and earn our way? I think it is difficult for us pay our dues because we saw our parents’ generation work really hard, only to be laid off during that crazy time in 2009. And the tech industry is known for working people to the bone and then throwing them out the next day. So it is difficult to pay our dues when we don’t know if they will ever pay off.

To me, the U.S. is a place of extremes. Oh our houses are getting too big? Let’s live in 100 square feet! I don’t like my job? I am going to quit my job and travel the world for 3 years! We don’t have a work/life balance, just work or life. But either way is depressing to me. Why can’t we like what we do? Or balance what we do with hobbies? I intend to try just that.

Posted on

Submissions Now Closed (to Strike Away – a matchbook art show)

I’m thrilled to share with you that Courtney Cerruti and I are curating a show of matchbook art at Paxton Gate Curiosities in San Francisco. It’s a follow-up to Courtney’s hit show last year, 3636 Project, 36 spoons by 36 artists.

The matchbook show Strike Away opens May 22, 2015.

If you’d like to submit artwork click HERE for details.

Can’t wait!!

Posted on

xmas letter from a new parent

Dear family, friends, and strangers,

I reflect on 2014 and its many life changers.

Last new year’s was spent with my head in the bowl

But not due to shots at the local watering hole.

I had a bun in the oven and six weeks of morning sick.

Come summer we expected a new Dornadic.

Fatter and fatter I grew

staying away from meats, cheese, and any kind of brew.

Giant belly, swollen feet, and a bloody bumhole

Waddling around, counting down to the big arrival.

Until one day in August, the doc said, “We’ve got to get that sucker out.”

After lots of poking and coaxing, and a little (ok, big) shout

There she was, a skinny screaming pup, with long hands and feet.

Dark brown hair, blue eyes, we were so excited to meet.

The family said congrats, dressed in their best

Then promptly headed to Santa Barbara for a wedding love fest.

We brought her home, and as she lay on our bed, a tight screaming ball

We looked at each other, eyes wide, and giggled, “Now what, doll?”

Sure enough, she kept us guessing,

Is she eating, sleeping, pooping enough??? We were obsessing.

Then French people came and invaded our home.

Well-meaning grandparents, armed with baby clothes, oils, and tome.

Then it was all bavoirs, tétines, coucous, doudous.

Est-ce qu’elle mange, dort, fait caca bien???

Et puis, au revoir et à bientôt, merci, de rien.

Back to 4am feedings

Online readings

To pooplosions

And lotions



And just when I thought, I can’t do this, enough is enough

She looked square in the eye and smiled at us.

And with that, the heart melted, OK, she’s a keeper.

Happy holidays to you and your Santa believers!


– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

So that’s where my original letter ended, but then my friend sent this response and I had to include it because it’s so splendid:


Just read your sweet xmas letter.

Things will sometimes be down and then get better.

And so take note, these little munchkins of ours are smarter than you think.

Just when you are at wit’s end and on the brink,

They turn around and give you a wink.

Our hearts melt and are overjoyed,

Till two months later and the next mental leap that leaves us destroyed.*

It’s definitely a journey like no other I’ve found.

Seeing them turn into real people is way better than being round.


*Originally “annoyed” she changed it to “destroyed.” I think this says a lot but I’m no Freud.


Posted on

Feeling Like A “Real Artist” with a Show at The Shop Friday


Well my last post was about how I feel like an artistic poser at times. So I am thrilled to say that I will have work on display at November First Friday in San Mateo at my favorite printshop/workshop space/gallery The Shop at Flywheel Press. I’m feeling more like a real artist already!

I’ll be showing work next to some very talented ladies, including the lovely Rachelle Kaldani.

I’m displaying original watercolor and ink sketches that went into making my zines. I’ll have copies of the zines for sale too! All super affordable because everyone should get to own art.

Hope to see you at the opening reception this Friday, November 7, 6-9pm at 309 7th Ave, San Mateo, California 94401.

Here’s a peek at what’s to come.


From the making of “Growing Up Half Ass(yrian)” a collab with Seana Murphy.

squat floating  bellies


From the making of “Expecting” a zine about pregnancy. (ps Seana made this awesome blue jean quilt)

And last but not least, my new zine about breastfeeding “Public/Private” hot off the presses!



Posted on

Social Sketch in life

I met Mike when Courtney asked if I’d like to join them for a sketch sesh. I said, “of course!” but was kinda nervous about sketching with the two of them. They are what you might call real artists. The kind of artists with degrees in art, who show their work in galleries, write books on art and craft, and teach others how to make art. I am a bit of a poser. I am a “paint in my living room after I finish work, don’t really know the difference between student and professional materials” kind of artist.

I decide to go sketch anyway. After scarfing down a terribly saucy, terribly delicious falafel in Mike’s studio space, we get to it. We each start on a sheet and when someone gets tired or feels like they’re done we exchange work. Then we exchange one more time so that everyone has made a mark on each sheet.

It was magic.

I loved trying to figure out how to enhance their work. I love how clearly Mike and Courtney’s styles come through, and how they play off of one another’s work. (You can see more of their collaborations on Instagram under the hashtag #ccrabbit.) I wasn’t even that scared to mess up their work because there was no ego about it. Turd it up? Doesn’t really matter, flip the page and start something new.

Here’s one of my faves from the night:


And here’s the bunch at the end of the night that we divvied up:collab sesh

This collaborative way of drawing reminds me of old Persian miniature painting. Each artist would have a specialty, such as gold leaf, color, calligraphy, and would only add that particular element to each work. Paintings were a result of several artists’ efforts.

Several years ago the Asian Art Museum here in San Francisco hosted an exhibit that played off of this idea. Karkhana: A Contemporary Collaboration included paintings that had been passed from artist to artist. Here you can get an idea of the process (excuse the shitty images throughout this post, these are quick phone snaps of the exhibit catalog):

karkhana process


This brings us to the awesomeness that is Social Sketch, a monthly event recently started by Courtney and Mike which alternates between San Francisco and Oakland venues.

social sketch

It’s an open event, you can find upcoming dates on Instagram #socialsketch or Facebook. Bring beer, burritos, and your favorite pen or paints. Start a work, throw it in the middle of the table, take someone else’s and add to it.

Why I think this simple concept is so good:

there’s no ownership of the work, no ego because you don’t necessarily know who made what, no money involved so it’s not really competitive. You make something you’d never otherwise make, meet and work with skilled people, have dedicated time to hone your craft, take cool shit home. And if you make something crappy, it doesn’t much matter. Throw it in the center so someone else can fix it, and start fresh.

I would love to employ the social sketch concept in other aspects of my life. How come it’s so hard to find paid gigs with this same spirit? Projects where you work with cool people, with no ego, who help to make something that wouldn’t otherwise happen alone. I suspect work projects don’t feel this way because they involve money. As soon as you pay or get paid for shit it changes the dynamic of the relationship, and people tend to feel more possessive of the process or final products. Even so, I’m looking to embrace social sketch in other contexts because it’s a fun way to work, and a lot of cool stuff gets made.

Here’s some collaborative pieces from previous Social Sketches. Hope to see you at the next one!