Studio Visitors

Wednesday, November 30th, 2016


I am fortunate to live where wildlife is abundant. More than not I can glance out my studio window and see wildlife somewhere in the distance. But on occasion I will have a shadow cast upon my artwork. When I turn to look I find I have a visitor peering inside my studio. Inspiration can be right out my window,…hopefully the same for you.

A Smooth Beginning

Wednesday, October 5th, 2016

There is always something about the process of art which feeds me.

I just really love preparing icon boards. The mixing of the rabbit skin glue with the marble dust, and applying layer after layer of the gesso is just plain fun.

I know I can buy already prepared boards, and believe me I do from time to time, but I always like the ones I have prepared the best.
Now the hand sanding has been always time consuming, and let me know that I was a long way from perfection in this skill set.

Recently my husband ordered me a great electric sander, which brought me into this century
I will admit it is truly better to be covered in a white dusting for three hours, instead of for three days, and well, ..the results are awesome.

“The Bridge” Exhibition

Tuesday, October 4th, 2016

“The Bridge” Exhibition which started in Paris France well over a year ago, is winding down in Wyoming. This show has traveled around the world and the U.S. and Lander was one of the fortunate locations on the roster.

The meaning of this art exhibition touches me personally as I have in my travels and a few years spent in the Middle East found a love for mixed cultures and beliefs. We do all have a lot more in common than we have differences. The Bridge is just that,..a bridging of the Christian, Islamic, and Jewish faiths.

Lander will have had 5 events in honor of this exhibition by mid October, and it was a pleasure to assist on the evening of the Art Crawl, and an honor to have my icons displayed at one of the locations.

One event was a showing of “Blue Like Me”, a movie about artist Siona Benjamin and her life as a Jewish Indian. Check out this film. Siona was one of the artists that traveled to Wyoming.

Here I am wrapped in one of Siona’s beautiful shawls.
Hopefully the message depicted in the art from this exhibition will linger,…a message of Peace to All.

Check out:


Monday, April 13th, 2015

Cook Naked, It Is..., 40"x 60" - SoldThe CLICK! Conference will be held in Cody, Wyoming this weekend. I will be attending and I am looking forward to the entire weekend. There will be guest speakers, hands on sessions, gallery walk, a tour of Harry Jackson’s studio,…and more. I know I will be inspired by the folks presenting, but I’ll also be inspired by the other attendees.

I will be one of the 20:20 presenters. 20 pieces of my art on a powerpoint presentation, with 20 seconds to talk about each piece. I’ve never even seen a 20:20 presentation, so this will be a challenge.

Storytellers @ The Lander Art Center

Wednesday, August 27th, 2014

Thank you to the Lander Art Center for the photos

The Lander Art Center will host the artist invitational “Storytellers: Spencer Bohren, Melissa Strickler and Do Palma”. The opening will be September 26th, 6:00 – 8:00 PM. A concert by Spencer Bohren will follow the art opening. Storytellers will run through September 26th – November 1st, 2014. For info on the other artists I highly recommend you check out their work at: and I am honored my art will be displayed with their work at the Lander Art Center, 224 Main Street, Lander, Wyoming. Come join us on September 26th for a great evening. For more about this show or other opportunities at LAC you may contact them at: 3073325772 or go to

Peace Pole

Monday, January 20th, 2014

DSC_0014 (343x515)DSC_0015 (515x343)Earlier this winter I was making a run for the studio when the Peace Pole caught my eye. I hadn’t noticed it for a while ( I hate to admit this), but on this particular day it jumped out at me.

It seemed so stark with the white background of winter, reminding me to shout out a prayer for peace. “Peace on earth, and goodwill toward men.” immediately crossed my mind.

A few years ago a friend of mine told me about the Peace Pole Project, and showed me his. I loved the idea of having this on our property, so this kind person made me one in his woodworking shop.

I chose the languages I wanted on the four sides. This shouldn’t have been stressful, but it was for some reason. Picking places that represent people I am particularly drawn to was difficult, since I lived in the Middle East at one time, plus love to travel and explore different cultures, there just seemed to not be enough “sides” on the pole to suit me. Oh, well.

What is a Peace Pole?  A Peace Pole is a handcrafted monument that displays the message and prayer “May Peace Prevail On Earth”. There are tens of thousands of Peace Poles in 180 countries. They are reminders for us to visualize and pray for world peace. Oh, what a wonderful world it would be.

Check out:

peace my friends, Melissa


Van Gogh in the Heartland

Wednesday, October 23rd, 2013

DSC_0220DSC_0221“Not All Who Wander Are Lost”  I have a T-shirt with those words printed on it, and for me they summerize accurately how I like to travel.

I have been away for several weeks, and recently made the trip back home to Wyoming.  I like driving, and prefer driving on the roads less traveled.

The out-of-the-way roads and highways seem to usually win over the busier interstate. There is a re-connectiveness to America as I pass through the countrysides, and towns, and I always seem to glean some artistic inspiration along the way.

The news programs are full of negativity about our nation,…..bickering politicians blaming the apposing side for failed this, and failed that in our country.

My recent road trip was like a breath of fresh air, and a good reminder to me that whatever mess is on Capitol Hill, it does not represent the rest of us.

I found America to be well and thriving. The farmers were in full-on harvest mode, the children were waving from the school buses, the main streets were lined

with pumpkins and scarecrows, the football teams were on the practice fields, and it seemed every community had it’s unique calling card,…which brings me to Goodland, Kansas.

Goodland is a place I would have expected sunflowers, but not Van Gogh’s sunflowers, but there they were,… let’s just say bigger than life.

I hope sometime soon you will have a day to wander, and may the sights you see give you inspiration.

Bee Goddess buzz

Wednesday, August 14th, 2013

lavenderbeeA Farmer’s Market is always a great part of summer and fall, and this year is no exception. I’ve had Bee Goddess products at our local Farmer’s Market recently. It is a delight to be there with the other vendors. There is everything from gourmet popcicles (favorite flavors of mine are lavender-blueberry-lemonade, and toasted coconut-strawberry), bouquets of fresh flowers, apple pies, four-berry jam, hot wheat bread, pepper jelly, ground bison ( it is Wyoming, you know!), and of course scores and scores of wonderful, good-for-you-produce.  It is great experience to have my Honey-Kissed Lipbalm, Sea Salt Scrub, and all over body Balm purchased from the local folks. I hope they all benefit from the great moisturizing and healing properties of the products.

Some other great news is Global Arts, located downtown Lander, also has Bee Goddess products available year round. So when the weather turns cool, and fall and winter weather takes a toll on your skin, make sure to check out Bee Goddess products at the Global and visit with the new owner, Emily.

The photograph is one of my honey bees checking out our lavender.

Hoping you make time to stop by a Farmer’s Market this summer, is good for your soul.

Finished, or is it?

Saturday, June 29th, 2013

DSC_0040_0 DSC_0037_0 DSC_0025_2Once finished, an icon should then be blessed.  It is a sacred moment to see your icon, which you have worked on so heartfelt and carefully,  be anointed and prayed over.  There is a sense of peace that is felt.  The icon with it’s human made imperfections mysteriously expresses the perfect world of the kingdom of heaven. The icons created by the students, and  communal icon created by myself and my teaching partner/ friend, seem to have a melding of God’s strength, peace, and protection shining through Saint Michael.

At the end of the last day we had our icons blessed at a lovely outdoor sanctuary. The pastor who presided over the service was inspired with the words spoken, as he anointed each icon .  This was my favorite part of the workshop,…seeing each individual come together not just with their labor of love, but with each other during such a precious moment in time. There was a stillness and peace on each face at the service.

Is an icon finished at this point? Well in a physical way,..yes. But in a spiritual way,…it has just started. Over the years ( centuries would be nice), it will have many a person gaze at it, ponder in front of it, and lift prayers to God before it.  Peace be with you this day.

Writing icons,..a little slice of heaven

Thursday, June 27th, 2013

2013-06-01 11.36.26_0 I am surprised at how much time has gone by since we held the iconography workshop, almost a month has passed (but doesn’t summer always go by too quickly?).

It was a special week with those who participated.  Much information was demonstrated and taught, and the students embraced it.

They started work on their St. Michael using a beautiful proto-type as their guide. As their own images emerged it was wonderful to watch. These first steps are the “basic bones” of the icon, but with every stroke of the brush, we knew they were on their way to creating an icon to be cherished.

Learning to mix the egg tempera, applying gold, along with reams of steps, and days of painting kept us busy on average 9-10 hours a day.

At the beginning of the week the room fills with thoughts of….. “what am I doing here?”  Then as the days pass it leans toward,… “look what I have accomplished.”  Definitely music to my ears.

We start the workshop every morning with prayers and devotion. It is a short meditation, because we do need to move on to the work of the day, but it is a time that hopefully helps to push away busy thoughts, and will center our mind, our eyes, our hands, and our hearts.

I will blog again in the next day or so. At that time I will share what was my favorite moment of this past workshop. Stay tuned.

2013-06-01 11.18.17 DSC_0012_0 2013-06-01 11.21.14 2013-06-01 13.06.06

The Buzz

Monday, May 27th, 2013

QueenbeeIt is a wonderful sight to see the honey bees buzzing around our digs. It is a sign of warm weather, blossoming plants, and a promise of fresh honey later in the summer.

The bees and beekeeping make me happy, is just that simple.  They are industrious and orderly,  they work for the common good of their fellow bees, and take care of their personal space (the hive) , along with providing a service to the world ( pollination) around them.   We could all take a lesson from the honey bees.

Besides these little creatures providing liquid gold to be enjoyed, they also provide other goods from the hive which I’ve been using to create my Bee Goddess products. I am making an all over dry skin balm, sea salt scrub, and now a lip balm.

I am also inspired by the honey bee to create a different form of work. Encaustic is the process of using wax to create art.  After rendering my own beeswax and mixing it with pigment I can then use it in a way that some might think is similar to painting. The application of the encaustic is very different than applying paint, but the details will need to be described in another blog down the road.

I plan on beekeeping for years to come,….I know they have many more lessons to teach me.


A Day in the Life

Monday, April 22nd, 2013

studio3It has been a productive day in the studio. The wind is blowing, and it is a chilly Wyoming spring day, but no problem here, because I have been tucked in the studio happily working on my collages. Life is good.


Sacred South

Monday, March 25th, 2013

6.Shattered WingsI will be heading to the deep South soon, for a taste of spring (it might be a while before it finds its way to Wyoming).

My parents were both originally from the South, so I have roots that will always be there,… and I guess for that reason I need to get “my fix” about once a year.  On this trip I am looking forward to seeing some new sites and  exploring the art, the culture, the music,… well and of course the food.

I love the old spiritual music from the South, and I am hoping to find and enjoy musicians which focus on that particular genre.  “Do Lord” is one of my all time favorite spiritual tunes, and the lyrics were part of the inspiration of my collage “Shattered Wings”.  In the collage I use everything from a pair of beaded sandals, glass from a broken church window, skeleton keys from Jim (read past blog), brochure from a ” Jesus Christ Super Star” performance, etc…

I was recently contacted by the Episcopal Art Cafe Blog. They wanted to feature ” Shattered Wings” in their current blog. It is nice to think “Shattered Wings”  will reach more people through this cool blog. I encourage you to check it out. There is a lot of inspirational material on their site.

I am sure on my return trip home I will have a head full of new and creative thoughts, that I will want to get to work on ASAP.

Family Tradition

Tuesday, February 26th, 2013

DSC_0004There is a wonderful Russian tradition in iconography for welcoming new babies into a family. It is creating the little one’s own icon, with very specific dimensions. The board is cut the exact length the child was at birth.  If the child has been named after a saint, the icon could be of that particular saint, or if they do not have a saint name the iconographer might choose a Guardian Angel for the icon (as I have in this particular work).  Another specialized item which I have added to the icon is a gemstone, representing the month the child was born. In this detail photo of the icon, you can see there is a aquamarine placed in the breastplate. This custom icon will be one which is treasured by the recipient, and as they grow and get older, it can be passed on to a child of their own. My favorite part of creating this type of icon is the opportunity to pray for the child and their future as I work.


Tuesday, February 26th, 2013

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Baby Bump Art

Friday, February 22nd, 2013

photoOnce mothers-to-be get over the initial excitement (or shock) of their pregnancy, and they start to prepare for the arrival of the little one, there is always the baby’s room to consider. What theme?  Hmmm, let’s see…..Pirates, Princess, Bunnies, Bees, or  Elephants?  There is the color pallet for the room, the crib, and finally something to fill the walls. That’s where I come in.  What fun I’ve had working with young moms-to-be to create a piece of very original artwork for their nurseries.  The gal and her baby bump use a canvas and non-toxic paint to create a great base surface for a collage. After the paint dries on the canvas, and the belly is wiped clean, we start on the process of collage.  It is a time of creative bonding for the mom and baby as they work on their first art project together.

randipreg tessprego2 Randipregart

Dear Jim

Wednesday, January 30th, 2013

DSC_0005Jim. I have spent a lot of time with him, well,.. not actually with him.

Jim was the son of a family friend. She passed away awhile ago, and Jim died many years before his mother. She was proud of him, and spoke often of his accomplishments and adventures. Jim devoted his life to the FBI. He was a young man when he started with the Bureau. He never married, and never had children. He was truly devoted to his job,… and his mother.

Jim wrote his mother letters and postcards with tidbits about exotic locations, and intriguing people. Jim, in fact corresponded with many folks, and they in turn kept in touch with Jim.  Jim died a suspicious death, fact his mom told us “he’d been slipped a mickie”.  This happened somewhere in New Mexico in the early 70s, if my memory serves me.

You are probably wondering why I am sharing a little bit of Jim with you,… actually I share a lot of Jim.  You see, after his mother passed away the boxes of postcards, letters, agent passports, photos, etc,…were passed to my family.  The question was what do we do with the personal papers of this ghost of a man? After looking at the photos, and reading through the detailed travels it became apparent they were too interesting to discard. Also it would have felt like we were discarding Jim. Instead I have taken these pieces of Jim’s life, the life few knew about, and now they are in my collages. I’ve used Jim’s passport photos, along with letters, and picture postcards from his co-workers and friends in Rome, Berlin, Frankfurt, Moscow, etc.. and carefully placed the pieces in my collages.

In a piece I finished recently ( Offshoot ) there is a letter written to Jim’s father from a friend in the 1920’s, but in this particular collage the true “piece de resistance” is Jim’s Geneva Convention Identification Card from the 1950’s.

I never met Jim, but over time working with the scraps of his life I have learned he was a good man.

Saint Michael and Mosquito nets

Tuesday, January 22nd, 2013

DSC_0035 (422x540) (402x515)This past May a friend and I taught an icon workshop. The image we wrote was of Saint Michael the Archangel.

The icon was a communal piece, with both of us working on it.

The church my friend attends takes a mission trip yearly to Uganda, where they distribute much needed mosquito nets and medical supplies. Thousands of people from the area walk many miles for the opportunity to receive a mosquito net to protect their children while resting or sleeping, which greatly lowers the possibility of them contracting Malaria.

100% of the proceeds from the sale of this Saint Michael icon will go toward nets. The church will return again to Uganda in late summer to distribute more nets and medical supplies.

The price of this 11″ x 14″ icon is $750.00, which will buy 75 nets.

Doesn’t it seem fitting that Saint Michael would be protecting the children?


Cooking Up Glue

Tuesday, January 15th, 2013

It is a cold morning in Wyoming, 12 degrees to be exact.   It’s a perfect day for simmering a big pot of chicken soup on the stove.  Instead I have spent a little time this morning cooking rabbit glue on a hot plate in my studio.

I am preparing a few icon boards, and one of the first steps is to apply a linen cloth to the board with rabbit skin glue or also known as rabbit collagen. It is exactly what it seems, and it’s been used for centuries by artists in their work. The rabbit collagen will be used again in the next step of preparing the board; making and then applying the gesso on top of the linen.

There are products on the market now that are similar to rabbit glue, but I enjoy using the ancient methods in my work of icons.

The glue does have a distinctive smell, and I’m not talking potpourri. It is a good day for others to stay away from the studio.

Dental tools and an escargot dish

Monday, January 14th, 2013

IMG_3812I received an e-snail ( sorry, I couldn’t resist), I mean email the other day from a friend wondering if I wanted some worn out dental tools. I jumped at the chance.  Yes, these are the items that oddly enough when people come across them, they wonder “hmmm, Melissa might want to use this.”  The “tools” were discreetly passed to me in a box at church.

Recently I had scraps of priceless rusted metals handed over to me while out Christmas caroling. I have my sources.  All of these goodies will come out to play in a collage no doubt.  I really don’t have a landfill in my studio, but I do have bits and pieces I collect for my art.

As for the escargot dish,..let me explain. I have come across lovely miniature mortar and pestles at the farm implement store. I have no idea why they would carry them on the shelves, but I fortunately found them, and they are perfect for grinding and mixing egg tempera and pigments for my work in icons.  I shared one with a friend and fellow iconographer, and she told me about one of her best discoveries,….an escargot serving dish. Weeks later one arrived in the mail from her, to me.  It is a nice pallet for mixing and grinding several colors of pigments, and I would recommend them to anyone out there doing similar work, including watercolor.