My journey to complete a painting – “My Typewriter”

It all started on a frenzy afternoon Thursday, June 25, 2016 working on the computer at the day job typing-typing-typing.

I was speeding along on the keyboard faster and faster and faster. Abruptly, my hands stopped in mid air. I looked down at the keyboard as the keys started flying out at me in all directions jumping and flipping and bouncing off of each other. My keyboards gone wild!  Sometimes my imagination gets the better of me.

Giving the vision 2 weeks to percolate in my mind I was ready to turn it into something magical.   I played with it becoming a dance, a poem, a story, or a painting.   The painting won out.  

Following is the journey to complete this painting – “My Typewriter”.

NOTE: For timeframe reference I included “in-betweens” – those interruptions in life when you cannot focus on your artwork. Though life’s interruptions can be frustrating, on the flip side – they force me to “pause” and allows the thinking to germinate quietly as I come up with better solutions.

Most of the art sessions are on the weekends as I’m an artist with a day job to keep the roof over my head.

Sunday, July 12, 2015 – The journey beings.

Found the right size canvas – long rectangle.

Traveled down memory lane searching for a picture of a typewriter on the intranet. Found one that reminded me of my first manual typewriter before electric. A typewriter you had to punch hard to get the keys to work yet not too fast or my little fingers would slip through the space between the keys.


 In-between: It took the whole weekend to get two Thank You Art Gifts that had to get done in a timely manner. “My Typewriter” was making me feel guilty as it sat on the easel nagging me to get back to work on it.

Sunday, Aug 2, 2015

First step: Create a basic keyboard.

I cut 60 little funny shapes with faux black leather thinking this would be the background for the keys and I would enhance with layers of different colored textiles.   I thought the colors would pop out against the black, but surprisingly it didn’t work. The little black shapes got in the way. I would have to rethink it.

At the local craft store I found thick spongy material in different colors.   That first chosen material is not the end all, but it’s what sets the stage, the attitude of how you’re going to play the vision out.   I knew I would have to be careful and not get too zealous – needed to keep the colors and dimensions of the key’s popping out in a balanced manner.  

For 20+ years I was a choreographer, and though I’m not working with dancers anymore, my instinct for movement is the same, except now I work with mixed media and paint.

I had no idea how I was going to make the keys zing and show them “flying” out of the canvas, thrusting outward. I had different approaches to make that happen. One idea was to poke wires through the canvas – I first tried with Key #6” but the canvas wood frame blocked it – finally it was Key “7” that worked.




I didn’t gain much momentum today, but I took the first step – sometimes the hardest.

In-Between: My boyfriend Adrian and I went on an adventure to Yellowstone (never been), and Idaho for my nieces wedding. “My Typewriter” lingered in the back of my mind, but now interrupted with the magnificence of the wild west capturing my imagination.

August 30, 2015:

Now I have a deadline – I’ve been invited to participate in an art event October 23rd at the Forma Gym in Walnut Creek. I change my strategy so I can get it done on time! Adrian is away for a week, so I’m able to leave the painting on our table. (At the time we lived in a small apartment with one table where we ate our meals.)

Key-by-key. Saturday – I planned to complete the basic for all the keys then add the squiggles, zigs and zags. I had to figure out how I was going to attach the paper that the typewriter types on. No idea how I was going to do this.


September 2, 2015

I had to recut Key No. 5 numerous times, could not get the size right, walked away from it and had lunch, came back – figured it out.

When I’m losing patience with myself I stop – take a break – then – get back to work. Doesn’t help the art piece when you’re getting in a negative frustrated state-of-mind.

I discovered my ink pens worked on the canvas – a relief because I was having difficulty using paint. The markers gave me flexibility with adding fun details and saved time.

September 5 & 6, 2015

Yeah – Finished the Key’s!!


My trip to the craft store a few weeks ago was worth the time and $. The spongey material was a game changer. Being open can lead you to a path where you had no intention of going.   If you trust where it’s leading you – it usually works. When you overthink it – it unravels into chaos.

Late Saturday night I was still struggling with how to add the “paper roll”. I thought I would have to go to the craft store the next morning to find something that would work but after 2 hours of playing around I finally figured it out.


Done! The “paper” part done.   I celebrated with a spoonful of gelato ice cream – and went to bed.

September 7, 2016  (Labor Day – day off from the day job)

Now I had to figure out what I was going to write on the paper attached to the typewriter.

After a week of constant writing during my pockets of time; i.e. commute on the train to the day job, I figured it out.


My Typewriter – By Brenda Finne

 My typewriter does a song and dances as I type a pretty story. Happily playing along with my tap tap tapping, the words skip and….this is not working. I crumble the paper and start again.

 My typewriter has a mind of it’s own. She writes the stories with little help from me, I’m just punching the keys as fast as I can.

I found her in the back of an antique store amongst cobwebs and old books. Hungry to hear her voice again, the stories pounced onto the blank page as soon as I got her home.

 My typewriter is an extension of me – wondering just as I am – where are the twists and turns going to be? Will “The End” be months or years from now? Will my momentum keep chugging along?

 Only time will tell.

 For now, I just keep typing.

But, how was I going to get the words big enough?  I would have to figure this one out later.   

Sunday, September 13th

I needed to focus back to the keyboard – Adrian said it didn’t feel complete, and he was right. The keyboard looked like it was floating, so I added a border around the keyboard and that tied it all together.

Kept the shapes of the squares deep blue – if I carried the theme of different colors and wacky shapes, it would be too much.



September 19, 2015

The borders needed a bit more punch – the texture was too simple. Played with thin colored wire, but it wouldn’t stick with the glue. Then tried different color embroidery thread and ended up using only yellow. Still needing more texture I added different shades of blue and green dots.

Added the words!

Blended the paper onto the canvas using a palate knife with glass bead gel.

In-Between: Adrian and I have been looking for a bigger place to live for a few years – and we’re in the East Bay San Francisco area – a nearly impossible feat. Yet, through good old fashion serendipity an opportunity fell into our laps for a new home, but, we had to move Oct 24th!   Yikes!  The Art show was Oct 23, plus we had day jobs, and other commitments.

Through divine intervention I was going to have to get the piece done for the art show which I somehow did – sort of (read further to find out what happened).

September 26, 2016

Adrian had been telling me all along that the words on the paper didn’t work. “The words should match the keyboard, funny – lively – quirky”. The typed words were too serious. But while we were preparing to move I couldn’t focus on figuring it out.

October 22, 2016:  The day before the art show I brought my 3 pieces (which included “My Typewriter”) to the venue for the curator.     The day of the art show I was excited yet exhausted from all the preparations for the movers who were coming the next day.   Not knowing what to expect I showed up and realized my tiredness helped me stay calm, yet still nervous as I had no idea how people would respond.  (As a performer for many years my success  was based on the reaction of the audience)

October 23, 2016:  Night of the art show!   Two of my art pieces worked – I received positive honest feedback, but “My Typewriter”, didn’t work at all. Nobody knew how to respond – it was a “non-reaction”, no applause. They were first attracted to the colors, but no one took time to read the words. Frustrated, I realized they were too small.   I wanted to read them out loud to anyone who walked by – but I knew it had to be able to stand on it’s own – without a performance.  The words were an integral part of the piece – they tied it all together. “My Typewriter” painting failed.

Surprisingly, it didn’t bother me, – I was too exhausted from preparing for the move, but I was well aware that it needed more work. I had no idea what I was going to do, though I knew it probably had something to do with the words, not the keyboard.   For now, I had to move to our new home and unpack.   This would be dealt with later.

In between: Unpacked…unpacked…unpacked… Lots of unpacking.  

I was aching to get back to “My Typewriter”, but I had an “In between” which turned out to be the solution to my problem: I had promised my nephew an art gift for his new home.  The gift was based on his favorite song, “The Color Of My Life”, from the musical “Barnum”.

I printed the words and transposed them on tissue paper with different colored pens – walla!  Of course,  that’s what I would do with the words for ‘My Typewriter”.   

December 24 – January 10

Finally – I figured out how to fix the words.  Painted white thick paint all over the typed words so I could start all over again.

First, I printed the words in a really big font size, then, cut and glued it on the paper.   Covered it with tissue and wrote over the words with colored pens.

Now I let it sit on the easel for a week as I pondered if I should play with it some more; add circles, squiggles, zigs and zags, or something funny to match the keyboard? Through much discussion in my mind, I decided – it’s finished, it works, it’s done.

img_2431“My Typewriter”

June 25, 2015 – January 24, 2016

By Brenda Finne






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