We loved getting a peek into the Mind of Karen Zens, artist, native Washingtonian, and world traveler.  Especially as we hit our 45th Anniversary year, we are struck by the constant ripple of movement that characterizes DC: both the seat of government, the solid home to so many, but also a stopover, a transitory phase, a migration in and out.  We feel particularly grateful to have persisted in this spot on 7th & G SE despite (or, perhaps, because of) that very cyclical nature of our city.  And we are even happier to welcome artists back when they close the loop and return to our neighborhood after years away!  We hope you enjoy this lovely story of what we take with us–and what we bring back–through the arts.

Road through the Village

Road through the Village

I am a native Washingtonian who grew up on Capitol Hill. I spent much of my adult life elsewhere, including overseas in the Foreign Service, but I was very happy to resettle on Capitol Hill when I retired. I particularly have enjoyed the supportive arts community on the Hill.


Emerging Vessel

I have been painting and drawing on and off for the past 25 years. I think I began it as a way to process the wonderful places and objects I encountered during my diplomatic career. Russian icons, Islamic tiles, earthenware pots, Italian light, desert landscapes and Mexican color have all influenced my art. My subject matter tends to be abstracted landscapes or architecture but I also love the shape and feel of pots and they often appear in my work.



I have taken art courses and workshops here and abroad whenever I could fit them in with my “day job” and more steadily since I retired. I love color and the feel of paper so I was drawn early on to watercolor. (It was also easily transportable for a career that required frequent moves.)  More recently I have been adding mixed media – pastel, crayon, acrylic – and collage. I also have been experimenting with printmaking, especially the collagraph process, which adds a rich texture to the paper. I am still learning – I enjoy letting the right side of my brain have fun!




Don’t miss the April 22 opening of the next CHAL show–and, in the meantime, come check out our Artist in Residence in the Gallery to get more Mind of the Artist!

“I’m rarely sure when I am done with a painting, but I am very aware when I’m done painting.” So says Ann Pickett, our February featured artist, sharing a message that really resonates: the work may never be finished, but the physical practice of art becomes something that can be measured, can come to a conclusion.  It’s a subtle difference, but it’s one that really speaks to the Mind of the Artist; someone who is so in tune with her own artistic sensibility that she knows when to stop, even when the work in front of her doesn’t tell her so.  It’s part of what makes Ann’s words leap off of the screen in this reflection on her work and style–vibrant, alive, and bursting with color, we are so thrilled to share Ann’s mind and some of her glorious work.  Here’s Ann!

“Ann Pickett also is an abstractionist, but her vibrant acrylic-on-paper paintings have an almost-representational quality that suggests Richard Diebenkorn. These pictures hint at landscape, but also at intimate interior vignettes.” By Mark Jenkins February 19, 2016, Washington Post

I am a  graphic designer by day and a painter/mixed media artist by night, working primarily in acrylics on paper and canvas, and I began painting abstracts in 2005.

apickett_one, tutu low res.jpg

One, Tutu currently on display at the Hill Center

A “circus” of color, a “flurry” of paint — I love that description, because it is exactly how I paint. Inspired by landscape, the figure, and everyday objects. I paint because I love to paint, to express myself in bold colors. I love to paint large. Line and form just resonate with me, it feels good and right. Painting allows me to let my artistic energy loose, to be brave and bold; it is just fun and freeing. I love the rush that moves through me when I am moving the brush and things begin to happen.


She Comes and Goes currently on display at Bluebird Sky Yoga Studio, DC

Usually, I choose a few colors and start painting in a flurry. I like to put a lot on my canvas or paper all at once, bold expressive strokes, color, and line, before I really take in what is there. I work very quickly and intuitively, reacting to each stroke as it speaks to me. I paint layer after layer, rotating my canvas, hiding or exposing what is underneath in order to create depth and light.


Still Life with Pots currently on display at the Capitol Hill Arts Workshop, DC

My palette evolves with my painting; I tend to like lots of colors, and end up having to restrain myself. I always paint from something: landscape, figure, still life. I’m rarely sure when I am done with a painting, but I am very aware when I’m done painting. I usually sit with my painting for days or weeks before I decide if I like it, hate it, or am ready to go at it again.


The artist at the Foundry Gallery, DC October 2016

I am fortunate to have taken classes with amazing artists including Joyce McCarten, Bev Ryan and Marsha Staiger. I am, and hope to remain, forever a student: so inspired by the talent around me!

Speaking of talent: don’t miss Ann’s piece–along with a beautiful array of works by artists from across the District–in CHAL’s current show in the CHAW Gallery, “Vessels.”  The show will be here through February, and the Gallery is always free and open to the public–so come on in!

And we’re back!  Happy New Year, Happy 2017, Happy January, and Happy New Edition of Mind of the Artist, our blog series featuring the talented and diverse artists of the Capitol Hill Art League.  We are lucky to have these great artists in our midst here at CHAW, and are especially pleased to start year two of this series on such a strong note.  Kim’s story is the perfect way to kick off this year, as her own telling of her life wends its way from printmaking to painting and, ultimately, to a deeper need–to connect through our personal stories to a bigger story, a greater universal heart.  



I am a painter, printmaker and collage artist. I studied at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia, where I received my BFA in printmaking and bookarts. I relocated west to Washington State University to complete my MFA, focusing on printmaking, monotype, and large format book structures. My time and travels in Washington and the Pacific Northwest ignited my interest in landscape as a visual language.



After graduate school, I worked on the Umatilla Indian Reservation at Crow’s Shadow Institute, a non-profit printmaking and art studio. We were building a studio at the pediment of the Blue Mountains in Eastern Oregon for the tribal members to learn and use printmaking in their art practice. I worked there for almost a year before I was offered a position at Tyler Graphics in NY as an etching printer. There I learned how to make fine art prints for artists such as Helen Frankenthaler, Frank Stella, Al Held, and John Walker. It was an intense and amazing experience to work with artists of this caliber. Their art and personality loomed large in the print studio. My personal artmaking took a secondary role until I discovered collage and watercolor. I began making small stories on paper in my spare time.

After working many years as a professional printer, I found painting to fit my personal artistic need. The act of painting was immediate, active, and focused. I wanted to remove the barriers and the patience of the printing process and dive into the storytelling of painting.



I paint to tell stories; my own personal story, a universal story, a story heard, an inspirational story. Stories about a place in time, a specific landscape, outer space, or an interior landscape are all folded into a painting.


My Heart

Essentially, I think of my images as landscapes. Abstracted and full of symbolism, I record the sights, color and sensations of being in that place. Rural and urban landscapes, mountains and oceans all feature in the paintings. Images of water: bodies of water, rain, weather, symbolize change, release of control, being lost, or unmoored. I am fascinated by the idea of finding a point of location on such a vast and always shifting ocean. Likewise, the sky and celestial markings are curious to me. I use the symbols of longitude and latitude, constellations, timelines, and temperature as markers of my internal position.


Lightning Bugs Study #1

I see my “landscape” paintings as a universal story that many may be able to relate to. I hope my paintings bring community and highlight what we have in common in our hearts and minds, rendering the ineffable in paint.


Anatomy of a Cloud

Kim Bursic, Capitol Hill Art League, Mind of the Artist, 2017.

For more great content, follow @CHAWinDC on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram–and sign up for our e-newsletter at www.chaw.org!  We are looking forward to sharing more stories and thoughts from inside the minds of our community of CHAWsome artists all year long.

One year, eleven incredible artists: we are reaching the end of our first series of Mind of the Artist, featuring some of the talented, creative, diverse artists of the Capitol Hill Art League (CHAL).  We are so proud to have CHAL as an integral part of our CHAW community, and especially happy to be able to share some of their stories.  Some have been artists for their entire lives, others have rediscovered a passion, and still others picked it up late in the game–but each story is a reminder that ultimately, the artistic journey is individual: there is no one “right” way to find art or to explore it.  Jill Finsen is a fantastic example of someone who has dived right into her passion–and is REALLY going for it.  Read on to find out just exactly how she’s doing that, and how she arrived at that truly exciting place in her artistic development.  


Self Portrait

My first remembered interest in art was when I was given a Brownie camera as a child. I fell in love with black and white photography immediately. My dad taught me some basics and then I pursued instruction through courses after college at the Cambridge Adult Education Center and set up a rudimentary darkroom in my Cambridge apartment. After leaving the Boston area I dabbled a bit and later reignited my passion when AARP, the organization for which I worked, undertook a major reorganization.


Two Boats, Three Islands

I decided I needed a more serious diversion to supplement work and took a series of courses at The Maine Photographic Workshop in traditional and non-traditional black and white photo processes. When I began a new job at AARP, I was asked to include honoring the public policy volunteers who I staffed through a photograph. I was given the time to make studies of the volunteers around the country honoring them in individual ways. One woman was a pilot and we were able to make the photograph at National Airport when one could still get on the airport field. Another was from Hawaii: she is placed at the Botanical Gardens, sitting with shoes off. And I photographed a die-hard New Yorker on the Staten Island Ferry with the Statue of Liberty in the background. I was so fortunate to be staffing policy development and spending many wonderful hours in the darkroom to produce a series of portraits for AARP’s national office. I also pursued courses at The Corcoran School of Art and Design and Northern Virginia Community College. I built a darkroom with other Corcoran open-program students.


Beach Point



Orange-Red Lamp Shade

My entry into drawing and painting classes began about 15 years ago. I got hooked on exploring ways to express myself through oil paint. My paintings dangle somewhere between abstraction and representation. Perhaps my work can be called modernist but I find it challenging to label it. I studied at the Art League and Rob Vander Zee School of Painting. Increasingly I found myself wanting to spend more time painting and when AARP offered a buyout during a staff reduction in 2009, I took it even though I had not planned to retire quite yet and knew it meant tightening my financial belt considerably.


Locale One

I had a wonderful career at AARP but have been grateful for the opportunity to pursue my art. Since then I have painted full time and availed myself of workshops and opportunities to stretch—including three intense workshops, called Marathons, from the New York Studio School of Drawing, Painting and Sculpture (NYSS)—ten-day, 12-hours-per-day sessions. During the last one I yearned for a longer stretch of that intensity that challenged me and influenced my personal work significantly. I began discussions with NYSS’s dean, Graham Nickson, about the possibility of pursuing a Masters of Fine Arts in Painting. And by the time this article is published, I will have begun my two-year journey to delve further into painting and drawing at this small school, the original home of the Whitney Museum of American Art, which was established in 1964. I have relocated to New York for the duration while maintaining my membership in CHAL and hopefully will have an MFA in Painting in hand when I turn 71. It will be my birthday present to myself.


Rimmed Sun


Learn more & find many of Jill’s works on her WEBSITE.

And on that CHAWsome note: what a way to end 2016! We’ll be back in January with a fresh batch of artistic minds to explore.  Until then: CHAL & CHAW wish you the happiest of holidays, and can’t wait to see you for a creative new year in 2017.

We can’t imagine a better way to end the year than with a grand finale of not one–but THREE–featured artists from our friends at CHAL.  Each of these artists represents fantastically different ways of thinking about art in their lives, and each expresses herself so differently through the creative process.  It feels particularly compelling, as we move toward the end of the year, to reflect back on Mind of the Artist–and we’ll share more over the next two weeks of featured artists.  For now, we are delighted to introduce you to Judy Folkenberg, whose whimsical use of found objects speaks to the interplay of memory and present moment, to new perspectives, and to seeing the world around us as a space always for creativity, if only we are open to it.  Here’s Judy:
“the creative mind plays with the object it loves.”  c.j. jung

Falling Leaves

I like to play and create evocative and beautiful objects from all sorts of materials, so I became an artist.  I’ve loved books since I was a small girl so I focus much of my artistic passion on them.


Elephant Walk

I collect all sorts of things:  natural objects; boxes (ones I make or old ones bought from antique or junk shops); old hardware and other tools or implements; paper, books, illustrations, and photos; and other ephemera, and then play with them. I manipulate and arrange objects, rough them up sometimes; nail, paste, or sew them, paint, stain, and dye them.  I experiment.  For instance, I throw sawed off bound pages from a book into the bathtub, let them dry, and see the shapes that emerge. Then I dye or paint them.   And I make and play with books.


Hanging Pulley Over Eggs

Much of the time I have little idea where I’m going with a creation, but figure I have to just enjoy the ride, whatever the destination.


 “it’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.” Henry David Thoreau

Visit Judy on the web to see more of her amazingly creative explorations. 

And check back on this page right here for the next two weeks for our December Final Hurrah of featured CHAL artists!

Sometimes it takes a little re-prioritizing to return us to our authentic selves–which, so much of the time, has to do with filling up our creative wells and reminding ourselves that we are artists.  Now, not all of us will spend our lives designing, creating, and making, but let Linda’s story be an inspiration that we can always return to what makes us creatively alive.  Her extraordinary story, in her own words:

Much of my life has centered on art in one form or another. My father made a small table and chairs for me so that I could sit in the kitchen while my mom cooked. She would give me used paper bags, construction paper, and office paper and I would tear them up, pasting them together with that white paste to make “collages.” When I could use crayons I went crazy with color. I often attempted to use all of the colors in the large 64 crayon box…the one with the sharpener built right in.

In elementary school the teachers tended to put me in charge of anything vaguely “artistic,” such as seasonal decorations and bulletin boards. Then when I was about eight or nine, the local Richmond television station, WTVR, participated in the launch of a new line of dolls, the Teri Lee dolls. As a part of the publicity they asked their young viewers to design a wardrobe for the dolls. I worked diligently and actually won the contest. The prizes included the dolls with complete wardrobes and an appearance on the television show. It was all very exciting and I still have these dolls, which launched a career in the arts.


I continued a focus on art in high school, designing the school stationary and yearbook covers. In college I majored in Art (and Secondary Education, just in case the becoming a famous artist didn’t happen right away). I then taught Art at Elementary, Junior High, and High School levels. By then I was married and my husband’s job brought us to Washington. As it was not the right time of year to get a teaching job I went to work for an Interior Designer. I worked my up through the ranks until I started my own design business and enjoyed that profession for over twenty five years.

In 2000 I survived a brain aneurysm and re-ordered my priorities. What with raising two sons and running a business, I had been absent from doing my own artwork for quite a while. That was when I joined Gina Clapp’s drawing class at the Capitol Hill Arts Workshop. I found that drawing was something that came back easily and improved with practice. I ended up headed back into watercolors and pastels.


The second year of class we had the luxury of being invited to spend time on the island of Bornholm, Denmark. Most of our class and some spouses went on the trip. After almost two weeks together, we were great friends and we remain so today. The art on the trip centered on keeping a travel sketchbook.

Since that time I always travel with a sketchbook and small supply kit for drawing and watercolor work. These completed books are some of my most treasured possessions.


I have now published two small volumes: Capitol Hill is Home, celebrating the vibrant community on Capitol Hill, and Hiram Blake Camp: a sketchbook, which honors the 100th year of that family camp on Cape Rosier, Maine.

Learn more and purchase Linda’s beautiful books on her website.  And don’t forget to stop by the CHAL wall in the CHAW gallery to see the latest pieces from this talented group!  Next up is Stu Searles’ show, “In the Square,” opening Saturday, July 16 with a reception at 5pm.

Some Mind of the Artist stories begin late in life, with a big change or sudden discovery.  Others, like Naomi’s, begin in childhood, evolving into the processes and materials that have come to define the artist’s practice.  Naomi’s story comes back to the art at the center of her life, although, like many of us, her journey has not necessarily been linear.  Naomi’s story, in her own words:

My mother tells me that when I was very young she thought I wouldn’t be very interested in art, because while the other children were drawing pictures of dogs and houses, I was scribbling patches of color across the paper. In a way I guess I’m still doing that in a different medium. Now it’s acrylic paints, pens, and sometimes bits of collage on large and small wood panels. I work out of my home studio in Washington, DC, where I live with my husband, young son, and daughter.

in a minute there is time

in a minute there is time

I began my formal art training at the high school of Music and Art and Performing Arts in New York City, where I was introduced not only to painting and drawing but also to printmaking, ceramics, and photography. In college at Washington University in St. Louis I majored in illustration, thinking it somewhat more practical than painting, and back in New York worked at a graphic design firm designing subway signs for the transit authority.

In 2001 I met my husband in a painting class at the Art Students League in NYC. We noticed each other across the nude model we were painting and have supported each other in our artistic pursuits ever since.

After September 11th work was slow and I left the graphic design firm where I worked to pursue another interest, teaching. I taught elementary school for ten years in New York and then Washington, DC until giving birth to my son in 2012 and deciding to take the time at home to revisit my art. The following year I had my first solo exhibition at the FoundryGallery in Washington, DC and from there began exhibiting and selling work. While it’s been challenging at times to find the time and space to paint while taking care of my children, it’s also given me balance, taught me the value of using my time productively, and most of all has let me to truly appreciate my time at the easel.

which way the world turns

which way the world turns

My paintings have evolved over the past several years from representational oil paintings to colorful acrylic abstractions based on pattern and geometry. Even as an illustrator in college I came to realize that I was less interested in creating figurative compositions and more excited by drawing patterns on a shirt or letting the leaves on a tree take on an abstract form.

My other obsession is color- I am endlessly fascinated by the way colors shift and clash when placed alongside each other, and this interest has become perhaps the most prominent aspect of my work. I’ve never been able to plan a painting in advance- even when I try the composition takes on its own life and I just need to follow along and listen to it.



To follow along and see more of my work and my process, you can find me on instagram @naomitaitzduffy and at my website, www.naomitaitzduffy.com.

Interested in learning more about the Capitol Hill Art League?

We’re three quarters of the way through our Mind of the Artist series here on the blog, and what better way to celebrate than with Rindy–inimitable CHAL chairperson and CHAW fixture!  Her story is one of creative evolution, and we are so excited to bring you a little insight into the art and lens of Rindy O’Brien.

Framing the World, by Rindy O’Brien

Ten years ago, I stepped away from my frenetic life as an environmental lobbyist. Digital photography was just coming into its own, so it seemed to be a logical step in restarting my art.

The digital camera functions were similar to the film camera, but the post-production was a whole different experience. No longer did you have to be cloistered in a dark basement room, breathing in toxic chemicals and swearing under your breath when film tore or paper spotted.

Suddenly, you could shoot as many frames as you wanted to, unlike film, where the cost of film, paper, and development limited the photographer. The software to take the digital files from camera to paper, Photoshop, opened up all kinds of tricks of the trade to improve a photograph. And over the past ten years, the technology of printers has vastly improved to where now an inkjet print is considered museum quality.

Garfield Park in Spring

Garfield Park in Spring, c/o Rindy O’Brien

When the world is your oyster (what an odd saying, but so true), photographers explore everything. I shudder to think of the thousands of poor frames I have taken over the years. Photographing for the Hill Rag as part of my monthly gardening column began to focus me on a body of work: photographing Capitol Hill throughout the seasons. It was a labor of love to produce a photographic book, @Home on the Hill, in 2011. The project had taken two and a half years to produce 50+ photographs.

In the course of the book, I switched back to a basic manual camera, the digital Leica M 8. The camera, a throwback to the old days, requires each frame to be set manually. The depth of field is set, no automatic focusing. Instead of being limiting, my creative life exploded.

I had to focus – choose how each frame looked through the small viewfinder. The world was now framed for me. I still could shoot as many photographs as I wanted, but by being forced to slow down, hand-focusing and setting the speed and light, I also began to choose my subjects more selectively, putting more creative intention into my work.

California Solo

California Solo, c/o Rindy O’Brien

I also began to think about what caught my eye as I raised the camera to take a picture. Color! My frames are full of intense color. It has become an important key to my successful images. Of course, light is the ingredient that makes the colors work and I have to work with the camera’s settings to capture it the way I want the photo to be seen. I also began to be bolder in making sure the person or object in my frame was positioned to be captured at its best.

It was returning to the more traditional photographic methods that helped me move from a person shooting photographs to an artist creating pieces of art by selecting just the right frame.

Learn more about CHAL here, and come check out their upcoming gallery opening at CHAW on June 11!

Happy spring!  This month, we’re diving into Kay Fuller’s light-filled studio in Capitol Hill and learning more about her journey to art.  It may have started later in life, but she has taken full ownership, even serving on the board of the CHAWsome Capitol Hill Art League.  Here’s Kay:

I am a native Washingtonian, but spent most of my adult life in Prince George’s County, where I raised my family. My first husband died in 1985, and I remarried in 1987 and moved to Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, where I paint in a wonderful, light-filled studio in our home.


MY ART: I was a cactus flower when it came to art and never picked up a paint brush until I was 62. Thank goodness I met an artist, Janice Beck, in 2005, who taught me how to use watercolor paint, while enjoying the ambience of Provence. The painting bug bit me hard and I started taking every class I could. Eventually, one of my teachers suggested that I enter my work in the student show, and then in local juried shows. I became a signature member of the Baltimore Watercolor Society and Potomac Valley Watercolorists. Then, I entered a national juried competition, the MFA “Strokes of Genius,” show and my painting, Abstract Landscape, was accepted and used on the postcard. Now, I belong to several other art organizations and serve on the steering committee of the Capitol Hill Art League and the Board of Governors of the Baltimore Watercolor Society.

Several years ago, my representational watercolors became mundane and soon morphed into expressionistic acrylics and collage pieces, and then into non-representational abstracts. Now my paintings go between representational and abstract. I find inspiration from other artists and workshop instructors. My husband is also an artist and we enjoy taking workshops and painting vacations together. My work can be viewed on my web site, www.kayfullerart.portfoliolounge.com and my blog, http://www.kayfullerartblog.blogspot.com.

CHAW and ME: My early watercolor painting instruction was from Gina Clapp at CHAW. She encouraged me to enter the CHAW student show and, later, to join the Capitol Hill Art League. I enjoy calling CHAW my home base.

Learn more about opportunities to pick up a paintbrush (or camera…or clay…or tap shoes…) for yourself at CHAW!

It’s that time again–wherein the CHAW blog is turned over to a fantastic member of the Capitol Hill Art League (CHAL), and we get to zoom inside his or her creative brain! This month, we’re talking to Margo Johnson, longtime art-lover, traveler, teacher, and more.  Read on to learn more about Margo and her process of capturing place.

Originally from Wilmington, Delaware, Margo is a lifelong student of the arts. Having taught art in the public school for 36 years, she was trained in the fine arts and later in education, receiving a B.S. from the University of Delaware and later, a graduate degree from West Chester University.

Margo began her interest in art while in high school. Her art teacher would take those who had a serious interest in art to various shows in Philadelphia and New York. She became enamored with the work of the impressionist artist Claude Monet and in later years, visited his home in Giverny. After seeing both the watercolors and oils and having visited many of the places that John Singer Sargent painted, she was deeply influenced by his style.

Margo Johnson, CHAL Artist

Her Greek roots are the primary influence in both her approach to painting as well as her love for the outdoors. When traveling, either in Europe or locally, Margo stays in one location long enough to get to know the people and observe the influence the environment has on them.

Margo Johnson, CHAL Artist

In painting oceans, in whatever country she finds herself, she tells a story and creates a feeling about the location. Her oceans are filled with lush, sensual colors that create a certain atmosphere. She relates and retells a story in a variety of visual ways.

Margo Johnson, CHAL Artist

In the painting of her landscapes, be they urban or fields, she tries to relate an impression of life in that location. Again, with her rich colors, she creates a feeling of what it is like to be there. Lighting and palette are primary in Margo’s creation of that feeling.

Margo Johnson, CHAL Artist

She fell in love with the art scene in Washington, DC when her son, Todd, was a rower at Georgetown University and she became “food Mom” for their rowing team. She made repeated trips to D.C., during which she made time for visiting local art galleries: including the Corcoran, the National Gallery, the Freer Gallery, and a variety of others. The diversity of the people as well as the art in D.C. is most appealing her as she incorporates the importance of place into her own artistic practice.

Margo has participated in a number of juried invitationals and exhibits in Wilmington, Delaware; Chester County, Pennsylvania; and Philadelphia.

Some of her awards include:

Darlington Art Center – Best in Show

Center for Creative Arts – 2nd Place Winner

Delaware Valley Art League – 2nd Place Winner

Art Along the River – Featured Artist

Website:   www.margomjohnson.com