Wednesday, May 2, 2018


Palette knife (plastic knife) painting on gel plate and then pulled on black cardstock

I have always had a love for printmaking but I couldn’t afford the cost or the space for a press for printing but two years ago I discovered the Gelli Arts® Company and I have been hooked! With the gel plates you don’t need a press so after many years of not printing I have rediscovered the joy of printing again and I even teach numerous classes on gel printing throughout the year. I am so excited to share with you a new art venture I am embarking on; I have been asked by the Gelli Arts® Company to be a brand ambassador for their product line of gel printing plates!

This year my program Art Has No Barriers is in its second phase at the Lansing Art Gallery and Education Center. Through this I have taught the gel printing process to those with and without disabilities. The gel plates are a great hands-on art project and it has been very well received for the positive impact it has been having on those who participate in the program and in the community.

As a Brand Ambassador for Gelli Arts® I will be working with a team of artists from around the world to bring exciting and creative projects to you all. To make sure you have an opportunity to create alongside me, the company will is offering a 10% discount of Gelli Arts® products if you order with my code: CatherineTP @

I am thrilled to start this new chapter in my art career and to bring you along on this journey! I will share some photos of some of the things I have printed and you can see some things my students have printed with gel plates here at my Art Has No Barriers facebook page. I hope you will share what you create with me, too! Please "Like" my fb page C.L.Tonning.Artist to keep up with my latest creations.

The possibilities ahead of us are endless!

Ink & Acrylic on Parchment Paper

Jewelry made from Gel Prints
Printing on gel plate with feathers on handmade paper

Pocket journals made by gel printing on manilla envelopes

Monday, March 6, 2017


I have been away from blogging for awhile while I tried to figure out what I wanted to be when I grew up, lol.  I have done a lot of soul searching about my art and my teaching abilities.  I love sharing my talent with others and helping them discover their inner artist. One day the light bulb went on in my brain and I decided to write a grant proposal to teach art to students with disabilities. I applied for the "Artist in the Community" grant through the Art Council of Greater Lansing. In October I was awarded the grant to help students with disabilities to find their voice through art. This project is very close to my heart! If you have read my previous posts you know I had a grandson with severe disabilities that died in 2013 at the age of 6 1/2.  

I have a community partner in the Lansing Art Gallery downtown Lansing, MI.  I will hold 4 classes there this spring to kick off the program.  Thanks to the grant and supporters these classes with be offered free of charge.  Gelli Arts, Stencil Girl stencils and Deco Arts have generously given me enough supplies for all of the classes. Because of this act of generosity the students will be able to take some products home to continue experimenting with what they learned with me.

In the classes we will be making mono prints using Gelli Arts printing plates.  No previous experience is necessary and everyone I have taught this technique to has enjoyed it.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Getting back to blogging about Art

It's been awhile since I have written. I have been keeping busy painting, honing my craft and showing my art. By the time I sit down to write I am at a loss for words, lol. Seriously I find it more difficult to write out my thoughts than to blurt them out. Hopefully for 2015 I can keep up on a regular basis. Did I just make a New Years resolution? Well you heard it here first!

I was recently interviewed for a featured artist piece on Inspired by Willow Wolfe and sponsored by Princeton Brush Co. 
so I thought I would share it here:

Preferred Medium:

Acrylics on Claybord

Favorite Tools?

My Favorite tool is whatever will give me the texture I want, crumbled up paper for bark texture, Hawthorne thorn for scratching in fur, makeup sponge for defusing background atmosphere and of course my favorite brushes. I have recently discovered the Series 6250—Umbria Synthetic brushes and I am loving them for acrylic painting. I have tried many types of brushes and I find that acrylics are tough on brushes but the Princeton Umbria brushes seem to hold up the best.

What would you call your style?

My style is naturalism. I have always looked toward nature as inspiration for my work. As an artist, I have found that when I am portraying the rich texture of a wolf’s coat or the glistening reflection in a bird’s eye, I feel at peace. As a teacher, it gives me immense pleasure to be able to guide my students so that they can emerge as artists and find their own inner solace as well.

What are you currently working on?

I am currently working on a series of trees through the seasons. I enjoy the contrast of the White Birch against the deep blue sky in fall and I like to paint the Lonely Cypress tree against the ocean blue.

What is a favorite piece of art you created and why?

I did a series called "Life in the Serengeti" for and exhibition last year.

This African Bush Baby is one of my favorites. 

                                                                     This baby elephant was also one of the series.


I also enjoy painting flowers and birds:

These paintings are all done in acrylics on Ampersand Claybord.

Who are your art heroes?

Oh the list is long but I will try to list my top 5 art heros: da Vinci because of his sketches, inventive mind and his vast body of work. Van Gogh for his color and moods that show thru in his artwork. O'Keefe for her compositions, colors and her representational work. Wyeth because of his illustrative qualities, mastery of light and shadow. Monet because of his ability to capture the ever changing light and the passing of seasons.

What qualities make your art distinctively you?

My experience and education in both Commercial Art and Fine Arts resonates in my style and in my ability to capture the fine details that make many of my pieces seem more like photographs than paintings. I am well-versed in painting botanicals and other organic forms, my recent work with wildlife is what has been getting the most exposure.

Where do you create?

I have a studio just outside my back door. It is a remodeled garage and I love it! I have lots of work surface and storage. When I am done working for the day I just turn off the lights and lock the door and I don't have to worry about messing up the house!



When do you create?

I try to keep to a schedule of working in my studio from 9:30 am to 4:30 pm at least 4 days a week. I like the solitude during the day when everyone is off to work and I don't have as many interruptions or distractions.

Do you sketch or keep an idea journal?

I love sketching and most paintings start with a pencil sketch. Sometimes the sketch even becomes a finished pencil for framing. I keep all my sketches in a drawer unless I frame it. I have lots of journals with a few sketches in them but I am more prone to get a big sheet of drawing paper and go for a finished drawing. I do always travel with my sketch book just in case inspiration strikes.

What do you do when you hit a creative block?

When I run into a creative block I try to switch gears and start working on making jewelry (my other passion) or cleaning my studio, lol I will place the piece on which I am having a road block up on a shelf either in the studio or in the house and try to ignore it for awhile only glancing at it from time to time. When my mind is ready to take it on again I will put it back on the drawing board and start experimenting with different color schemes, if that was the problem (which usually is) or go back to the drawing reference in case it is about composition. Walking away from it is a safe way for me not to muck it up.

Do you have any special techniques you would like to share?

Techniques that I like are painting trees with a ripped up piece of computer paper crumpled up tightly and dab it into a little paint and stamp it onto the branch to simulate bark. Starting with the darker colors and then progress up to the lighter colors for the highlights.

Do you teach? What and why?

I teach acrylic painting in my studio here in Michigan and I also travel to different locations. I teach botanicals or birds mostly. As a teacher, it gives me immense pleasure to be able to guide my students so that they can emerge as artists and find their own inspiration. I have been teaching on location at our local Community Mental Health with disabled adults. This has been very rewarding for me and they are so appreciative. 

This is a class I taught off site of my studio

What do you listen to when you create?

I go to and find playlist without words mostly but then I also have a few marked favorite that are 70's music and also the Beatles. I don't like to be sidetracked by the lyrics as I am easily distracted. I also enjoy cello music and classical. When I find a song I like I save it to my playlist called "Background Music" then I can just play that list without searching for other songs. Other times I just enjoy the sounds of nature outside my studio and don't turn on any music.

What other things do you like to do creatively?

I enjoy cooking and entertaining, crocheting, photography and jewelry making. I like to travel to historic lighthouses and hear their stories, photograph them and just soak up the sounds and history that surrounds them.

Tell us about any commercial art endeavors:

I received a grant from the Art Council of Greater Lansing in 2013 and it allowed me to create a body of work for our local zoo. I painted 10 of their animals along with teaching painting classes on site. One of the paintings I did was of their lion "Dakota". My lion was chosen to be on a 47' x 17' billboard. It currently is on display in the Lansing area.

Sunday, February 16, 2014


In case you were wondering where I am..........I have been keeping busy in my studio since my Creative Creature project at the Potter Park Zoo came to an end.  I have been working in my studio almost every day while we here in Michigan are caught up in this polar vortex! They say it has snowed every day since Dec. 2nd!  My loving husband (he edited this, lol) snow blows me a path out to my studio almost every day so I can make it out there safely. I have been fighting off the urge to hibernate away these dark and snowy months.  So out to my studio everyday to work on paintings, techniques and prepare for upcoming classes I will be teaching. I am trying to get ahead of schedule while we are in this deep freeze as I have a couple of exhibitions coming up in the spring and summer.  I keep looking out my studio window and dreaming of all the beautiful blooms I hope to see soon in my gardens.  When the gardens thaw and start to bloom, I will be out there weeding so it is good to have this down time to get some paintings done.
Yesterday I worked with a great bunch of kids at our local art center  They made my job easy as I gave them the tools, some techniques and reference photos and they created some great art!  One boy was so proud of his tiger painting that he wrapped it up in some paper and wrote "Happy Valentine Day Mom" on the package.  He said it was the best painting he ever did! Love it!  As much as I enjoy painting and creating art, teaching and sharing it with others is the best part of my job and to see the excitement on their faces is priceless.
I am excited to have also been asked to teach a class at the Community Mental Health office this spring for a group of disabled adults.  I have always felt the therapeutic effects of creating art personally and I hope they will discover it also.

On another note, my billboard went up in December so if you are driving
 in Michigan on I-69 east of Charlotte near the Potterville exit you
 will see my painting of a lion watching your driving, lol 


My complete collection of my Creative Creatures is hanging at 
Absolute Gallery in Old Town Lansing, Michigan.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013


As you probably can tell by the long silence from me on this blog, I have been very busy with my grant project.  My Creative Creature Encounter has officially come to a very successful end. Over the summer, I had over 300 children and some adults paint with me at Potter Park Zoo in Lansing, Michigan.  I had all the supplies available for the kids to sit down and paint with me, and we painted tigers, ducks, butterflies and giraffes.  Everyone that participated went home with a painting. This was all made possible through a grant from the Arts Council of Greater Lansing and thanks to them, I was able to supply paint, brushes and canvases for everyone to paint with.

I met a lot of awesome kids and great painters during my project.  It amazes me what great paintings the kids did with just a little direction from me.  I hope I inspired at least a few young people to follow their creative spirit.

During the times I was not at the zoo painting I was in my home studio painting 10 of the animals that reside at Potter Park Zoo.  I also managed to fit in time to paint an exhibit for the Golden Lion Tamarins that the zoo acquired. Now they have a new home with a mural of the rain forest canopy as their back drop. My daughter Katie and I worked on it together  and I think it looks pretty good for our first attempt at a mural. 

Potter Park Zoo is a lovely park with great staff who are very friendly and helpful. They made me feel at home and welcomed me into their family (human, that is). They have a very wide variety of animals for all to see.

My Creative Creature Encounter project ended with an exhibition of my 10 paintings in their Safari Room.  On September 15th there was a free reception open to the public. We had a great turn out. The paintings continued to be on display until October 5th.

As a result of the grant from the ACGL I will have an outdoor billboard with the Lion on it somewhere along the highway! The Arts Council has partnered with Adams Outdoor Advertising to produce billboards for artist member grantees of the Arts Council. I am very honored and excited about this and as soon as I know where it will be I will let everyone know of it's whereabouts!

What I learned from this project:

Kids are great, creative, energetic and inspiring (but I really already knew that!)
This project enabled me to share my passion for art with others.
I was challenged and I stepped up to the challenge.
I was able to hone my craft over the 6 months of the project.
Painting wildlife is still my favorite subject to paint.
Don't stand too close to the Mandrill's cage as they have very long arms! lol

Most important lesson of all: 
I would like to acknowledge and thank my family and friends for believing in and supporting me!

Friday, June 7, 2013


On June 1st the Greater Lansing Visitors and Convention Bureau coordinated "Be a Tourist in Your Own Town" by convincing over 70 businesses and attractions to waive their admission fees and hold special events - all to celebrate how much art, culture and entertainment our city has.  At Potter Park Zoo they threw a truly wild party by celebrating International Migratory Bird Day on June 1st as well!  One of the main components of the Individual Artist Grant that I received from the Arts Council of Greater Lansing was "community impact".  I couldn't have picked a better day or a better place to get more people in our community as passionate about painting wildlife as I am. I knew it would be a busy day, but I had no idea how busy!  I prepared over 70 canvases, did line drawings of a Bengal Tiger, a Wood Duck and numerous varieties of butterflies for children of all ages to create art with me.  I also brought my trusty side kick and sister Christine along, and thank goodness I did!  4,687 visitors came to the zoo that day!  I was set up down by the duck pond on a deck with a canopy in case of rain.  The rain held off all day and we had a great time painting.  I don't think any kids that passed by didn't stop to paint.  I did a line drawing of a Wood Duck in honor of Migratory Bird Day and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife service asked me to promote their Federal Junior Duck Stamp contest. We had so many kids painting that 2 hours before the event ended I ran out of canvases and paper to paint on!  The last few kids that came through painted on the copy paper I had printed the line drawings on.  Christine kept them supplied with paint, brushes and paper while I gave them direction but they knew what they wanted to paint and they did a great job with or without my guidance. We had all ages from 2 years on up, even had a young couple sit down and paint the Wood Ducks together.  I was very impressed with how well behaved and eager to paint the children were.   I am looking forward to another great turnout when I return to the zoo on July 19th, August 17th and again on October 5th.  
Come paint with me and try your hand at art! 

                                                      Painting Tigers at the Zoo

        Made possible by:


Wednesday, April 24, 2013


is a go at Potter Park Zoo in Lansing, Michigan!  It is official - I got the grant I applied for back in January.   Thanks to the Arts Council of Greater Lansing for believing in me and my project.  There were 2 categories of grants; emerging artist and established artist.  I actually fall into a category of re-emerging artist but that wasn't a choice so after looking over my resume, publications and awards the director decided I would fit in the established artist category.
The day the letter came telling me of my award my grandson became ill and was rushed to the hospital.  It is with a heavy and broken heart that I tell of his passing.  I read the letter in his hospital room and one hour later he took his last breath!  I will continue on, for and because of Ethan, but this is going to be very hard as I have lost the love of my life!  Ethan would have loved to be at the zoo with me and all the kids around us.  His room was full of animals - stuffed and painted.

As I said before my project will be an Artist in Residence at the Potter Park Zoo.  I will be demonstrating acrylic painting techniques to the public during "Tourist in your own town" day on June 1st.  Then again on July 19th and August 17th.  I hope to encourage young and old (and those in between) to pick up a brush and apply paint to a canvas.  I will be providing paint, brushes and small canvases with help from the grant.  Just picking up a brush and applying paint to a canvas is a big step for some.  I will enjoy sharing the awesome feeling I get everytime I pick up my brushes to paint. It can be relaxing and/or therapeutic,  it can be an escape or an embrace.  You can tell stories with your art or just paint something because it is pretty or interesting.  I hope to help many take the first step to picking up a brush and putting paint on a canvas.  I hope it will be the beginning of many journeys for me and them!

              Made possible by: