August 28, 2009


Matyld {left} Henrietta Underwood & Lois Morton Warden share some gossip by Vivienne Strauss

From my earliest memories, I have been drawn to the expressive line quality and washes of color that are found in the art of Ludwig Bemelmans, Raoul Dufy, and on hundreds of magazine covers from 1925 - 1940s. I'm always delighted to see the large Palm Beachy-colored painting by Marcel Vertes hanging in my brother’s house. This type of art has a joie de vivre that attracts my eye, and it’s this quality that attracted me to the art of Vivienne Strauss on Etsy. Vivienne is a self-taught artist who paints through color-blind eyes {yes, tricky at times but a bit easier with watercolor} "I really love working with watercolors because they are much more vibrant." Her paintings are full of whimsical detail, not self-conscious or fussy on technique—even her captioned titles are charming!

"Elinor, having recently attended a Bergman film festival, now thought about everything differently."

Artist, Vivienne Strauss

My Dog-Eared Pages has a chat with Viv:

As a gal who studied Philosophy, how did you start painting? I'm a very late bloomer, I finally graduated with a degree in Philosophy because that was where I had the most credits. At 40, I finally know what I want to be!

What came first, collage or paint? Collage came first. I've always been obsessed with images. So often you can't find the image you want to express the idea you have so, the only way to do that is to create it yourself. Though I prefer painting to collage, I don't think I could ever give it up altogether, it is a nice break from painting and often gives me ideas and inspiration.

Where do you come up with the fantastic captions for your work? Every once in a while I have a title first and then the painting follows. More often than not, the title evolves as I paint.

I see inspiration from so many places, objects, and people in your work... that makes me curious, where did you grow up? I grew up in northern Wisconsin and Florida. After high school, I lived in Atlanta for quite a while and then Birmingham, AL. I lived in the south for a long time before we relocated to Portland {OR} last year. I don't really find inspiration in much prior to 1960 unless it is a portrait of people with their pets. Hearing about little idiosyncrasies about cats or dogs gives me instant ideas and inspiration. Most inspiration seems to come from found photographs, old yearbooks and old movies.

Do you and your husband {Matte Stephens} critique each other’s work? Well, Matte has been a painter for 15 years, I've only been doing it full time for a little over a year. He has been a constant source of encouragement and support since I started painting full time. We rarely look at each other's work until it is finished. I can honestly say, I don't think I would have kept at it without him.

Question Roll

Current obsession: Watching Jeanne Moreau films over and over, I think she is one of the most intriguing actresses ever.

Last thing you bought: Some new running shoes

Favorite vacation spot: NYC

Reading now:
I go through phases where I re-read old favorites because it seems so many new books are disappointing. Though Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout which won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction this year was incredible!

Listening to: Nothing current I'm afraid. I enjoyed 90s music in the 90s but now I seem to have reverted back to my favorites from the 80s. The few current musicians I listen to are Jolie Holland and Andrew Bird. I never tire of my Billie Holiday or Edith Piaf, though!

Inspiring artists: Edward Gorey, Max Ernst, Kees Van Dongen, Raoul Dufy, Ernest Kirchner, Florine Stettheimer

"Madge was supposed to have met Shirley at Bloomingdales over an hour ago and couldn't imagine how she and Jeffrey had gotten lost." {above}

Museum pick: Musée d'Orsay in Paris

Best store: Powell's Books

Favorite shape: the triangle

Cocktail of the moment: It's been the same for a very long time, Tanqueray and tonic.

Greatest inspiration from: Just letting my mind wander where it wants to, a simple phrase or scene from a book or movie can often start an entire series of paintings.

Last movie you saw: Le Doulos (directed by Jean-Pierre Melville starring Jean-Paul Belmondo).

Best movie interior: This one is hard, there are so many! If I had to choose just one it would have to be Auntie Mame, Butterfield 8 and The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, whoops that's three!

A day at the Beach, Biarritz, September 1931, Oil painting

Most precious belonging:
My collection of Eva Zeisel Schmoos

Can’t live without:
My glasses or coffee!

Favorite item of clothing: My vintage faux leopard coat

Favorite time of day:
Early morning when I take my first sip of coffee

Important thing you already knew at 18: That I was born in the wrong era

Searching for: The perfect black and white striped shirt, I have dozens but none are "perfect."

"Eldora didn't have the heart to tell Roland that he would probably never be more than a third-rate magician at best."

Favorite Philosopher: Ayn Rand

If you had to write one of your whimsical captions for a self-portrait, what would it say?
A lot of my paintings and titles are very thinly veiled self-portraits!

To buy or see more wonderful Viv Strauss:

August 21, 2009


I am at the beach a lot in August but I'm free of chemical-laden sunblocks. My arsenal includes an old wide-brimmed straw hat, a worn Indian cotton tunic, California Baby 30+ Sunblock Stick, Naturopathica Lavender UV Protective Cream 17, and my new favorite Beekman 1802 After-The-Sun Bars {soap that contains green tea extract, aloe and lavender in a goat's milk base} that promote healing and control skin inflammation from the sun. Beekman 1802 bars smell divine and come in a small box with 10 carry-anywhere pats, perfect for summer travel. My boogie board and I are ready for the coastal impact of hurricane Bill. I am perfectly protected from the sun... the waves are another story. Happy August weekend!

August 19, 2009


We are back with Heidi and Tim on a new season of Project Runway, which begins on August 20th on Lifetime. Here are Mr. Gunn's favorite "fashion picks" from the LIFE magazine photo archives. "Carry on!" {Click image to enlarge and to read Tim's smart and lively commentary}

August 18, 2009


Resort Collections of 2010 are predominately black and white with accents of deep blues and reds or muted grays and camels—which I much prefer to the jewel tones of some collections. I love the fresh, modern aesthetic of these black and white dressy-casual pieces from Yves Saint Laurent and Tory Burch.
images: courtesy of

August 5, 2009


Last summer, the day after we returned from our first trip to beautiful Swan's Island {Maine}, we received a call from our friend Jane that the Island's library had been destroyed by fire in the early morning hours, during an intense lightening storm. That was July 24, 2008. Fire and rescue teams responded to the call at 3:30 a.m., but found the fire had already engulfed the historic Swan's Island Library. The Swan's Island Educational Society inherited the old Atlantic Schoolhouse from Minna Geddes {widow of the poet Virgil Geddes} in 1990. In addition to over 12,000 volumes, the library was also home to over a century of historic records and photos, now lost.

Swan's Island Library Fire July 2008 courtesy of The WorkingWaterfront {left} Library now July 2009

When artist and island summer-resident Elizabeth Awalt drove over the next morning after hearing about the fire she saw something quite surreal... hundreds of scorched pages flying around. Only the edges were burned resembling pieces of toast or even tombstones but the center of the pages were intact. She started picking up the pages, from Jean de Brunoff's Babar, Edward Gorey, and more. She was deeply moved by these pages and remarked on how much a part of her own life these books had been. Elizabeth thought she might paint on some of them or give some to other Maine artists to paint. And, it's from that single thought that came one of the most beautiful ideas, New Pages — a benefit auction of unique works by noted Maine artists, created from the scorched pages Elizabeth recovered that day.

Swan's Island resident pages {top left} Elizabeth in her studio, poster for New Pages auction {right}

In addition to works by noted Maine artists, Elizabeth asked residents of Swan's Island to create pages and we were lucky to have seen them at her recent open studio. The emotions that fill you by looking at these incredible pages of art include a sense of sustainability and hope, the importance of community, and a pure love of books. Elizabeth's brilliant idea is more than helping people heal from this tragedy through art, its also the catalyst to raise actual dollars for rebuilding the library.

A breathtaking wall of Swan's Island residents pages {click to enlarge image}

pattern painted on a Felicia Lamport page {left} and a fun-loving creation on an Edward Gorey page {right}

simple design "Annie" on a page from The Colonist

another Gorey page {left} a simple sketch on a page of reflections of E.B. White & Anne Morrow Lindbergh {right}

Elizabeth asked us if we wanted to participate and we were honored to create our own New Pages that evening and deliver them to her studio the following morning.

Mark's hopeful branches page {left} and my page representing island permanence {right}

Larry's strong primal page {left} and Jane's sweet growing garden page {right}

Reconstruction will be costly but the library {a community landmark}, is extremely important to the Island's residents. This past winter, a newspaper ad for an architect brought 14 candidates to Swan's Island for interviews and a tour of the island's architecture. The board selected Bar Harbor architect Stewart Brecher. Support has come from many places including book drives in Rockland, Northeast Harbor and Lewiston. And, now the fundraising continues with the New Pages preview and auction events. If you can't make either event, please consider a donation. The people of Swan's Island would greatly appreciate it!

please click to donate

The Swan's Island Educational Society provides library and historical collection services for the community of Swan's Island.

August 4, 2009


I have been interested in package design ever since I took a class at the design firm Pentagram {in their flagship London office} in 1977. Today, I found a wonderful package design website called thedieline. Here are a few gems I discovered on the site:

top to bottom: chopsticks packaging by Koniak, xroads Philipine Sea Salts {local sustainable packaging}, Fuensanta water bottle by Pati Nunez Associates