“modern frescoes and micro evolutions”


Modern watercolor frescoes, suitcases full of striped socks, and a mutual love for Swatch watches. Yep, this is what went down on today’s episode with American painter Ali Cavanaugh. I was so curious about her process – she paints on panels coated in a thin layer of clay!? Obviously I asked her all about that. I also had a question that read as follows, “arms, legs, striped socks… why?” Well, she told me! You can listen right up there under the dot-covered arms of that lovely redhead, or you can subscribe on iTunes.

Let’s begin with a few arms ‘n socks. I’m sure you’ll recognize this work – it was all over the interweb a few years ago {including my site of course}:


I love them oh so much. Not only are the stripes and compositions absolutely fantastic, um, these are watercolors! Stun. Ning.

Ali mentioned moving from oils to watercolor as an experiment. For those pieces – pieces that basically changed her life – she only used one color for each painting. These are not the exact pieces, but they’re from her “monochromatic” portfolio so that you can see what they look like:


Again, I must reiterate… these are watercolor paintings!

Alright, and now, onto the legs! This is where the striped socks began:


So feminine, so absolutely lovely… as was her reason for starting these swinging legs in the first place.

Oh, now this series is beautiful, on so many levels. Here are just a few paintings from the “Milly” series:


A teenager with a very aggressive form of cancer who became Ali’s inspiring, light-filled muse for the series. And in case you haven’t listened to the episode yet, I’m very happy to report that Milly is in full remission! Ali has painted her several times since, and yes, these pieces are insanely beautiful too:


I mean, come on. GORGEOUS. Also, I want Milly’s haircut.

From oil, to watercolor, to washy watercolor… the micro-evolutions that keep Ali’s work fresh. These are some of her latest portraits:


Dreamy, yes? Sigh.

I had to include this, even though it makes me sad. This is the portrait Ali was asked to paint by a mother whose baby was stillborn. She wanted an image of him that was filled with life and love:


Beautiful. And heartbreaking. And beautiful.

And finally, a peek into Ali’s brand new studio. I found these images on her lovely instagram feed:


Gah! That light… are you kidding me!? She’s got everything she needs in there – big windows, lots of space, and a few cute kiddos to keep her company.

Ok, and before we wrap things up, Ali took a few photos of her insane sock collection for us:


And that’s just a few of them! Yeah, that’s alotta socks. Thanks so much to Ali, a fellow Swatch lover, for taking the time to chat with me; thanks to Saatchi Art for supporting this episode; high fives to audible.com for making my new book into an audio book – and for letting me narrate?! To preorder a copy of the audio book FOR FREE, along with a 30 day free trial at Audible, you can use my fancy link: audibletrial.com/JealousCurator

… and last, but certainly not least, thank YOU for listening. There will be more art for your ear next weekend.

Other links:

  1. Kendall College of Art & Design
  2. Affordable Art Fair, New York
  3. Milly’s work
  4. L.Ross Gallery, Memphis
  5. Swatch!
  6. Short film about Ali… so good!


comments (18)

  1. Julie /// 08.13.2016 /// 5:47am

    Seriously Stunning!! My faves are the stripy socks… of course!!
    And such heartwarming stories. Thank you!

  2. the jealous curator /// 08.13.2016 /// 12:06pm

    yes i love the socks too… so many stripes! that milly story was fantastic too <3

  3. Laura Dene Mchugh /// 08.13.2016 /// 1:19pm

    Lovely podcast. Socks! So many socks! And capturing the beauty of people in pain. That was awesome too.

  4. Mark Parmelee /// 08.13.2016 /// 7:38pm

    I love this collection of work. So beautiful and so talented!

  5. Sherry Knutson /// 08.15.2016 /// 8:03am

    Fresco socks portraits…so elequently beautiful – yup jealous☺️

  6. marc cardwell /// 08.16.2016 /// 12:44pm

    awesome art, and what an incredible conversation. this has maybe been said elsewhere: but this isn’t so much an interview podcast, as much as it is a conversation between people who love to create art. the baby portrait story was just beautiful.

  7. the jealous curator /// 08.16.2016 /// 3:52pm

    thanks marc – that’s a huge compliment (and yes, that story was so beautiful – ali is a very special person)

  8. Ali /// 08.17.2016 /// 7:46am

    Thank you for the kind words and love, everyone. And thank you for the opportunity to share, Danielle. I had the best time talking with you!

  9. Katrina Berlin Benco /// 08.17.2016 /// 9:10am

    WOWOWOWOW!!!! I can’t believe those are watercolors, they are seriously amazing!!!! I really want a print of the socks!!!! LOVE the portraits too, beautiful!!

  10. Somsara Rielly /// 08.17.2016 /// 10:37am

    This was a really beautiful, honest and open interview. The work is so bold, unusual and emotional – really touching and inspiring.

  11. Chrisanthy Petra /// 08.17.2016 /// 1:52pm

    I love Ali’s work.she is such an inspiration for me!and it was so good to hear this chat! Thank you so much! (I am little jealous about clayboard though! No such think in Greece!)

  12. Hilda /// 08.18.2016 /// 12:00pm

    I especially liked hearing about her fresco work and how she figured it all out. And, Danielle, I think we are about the same age too – I had swatch watches (with the guards)!

  13. the jealous curator /// 08.18.2016 /// 12:16pm

    ha! really!? #swatchsisters

  14. Elissa S Nesheim /// 08.19.2016 /// 11:09am

    just crying here now, what an amazing beautiful story. i also had my son during my senior year of art school! so crazy. mine are 7 years apart. one heading to college. i am in love with her journey to watercolor. its such a rewarding medium. glorious interview. thank you!

  15. Pattern Pulp - Friday Quick Links! /// 08.19.2016 /// 2:01pm

    […] 1. Alejandra Atarés’ lush and pattern-filled portraits via Trendland 2. Intrigued by this cabinet with layered shingles via design-milk 3. Marleigh Culver’s Matisse inspired prints via Sight Unseen 4. Functional mix-tape coffee tables via Colossal 5. Jessica Hische on the art of procrastination via Moxie Sozo 6. Digging these dreamy chambray sheets via Honestly WTF 7. A day in the life of Rachel Castle via The Design Files 8. A brief history of the decorated male via AnOther 9. DIY upcycled speakers via design*sponge 10. Wanting everything from Beech Hall’s latest collection via Miss Moss 11. A fan of this felted twist on the typical rug via iGNANT 12. Talking with painter Ali Cavanaugh via The Jealous Curator […]

  16. M /// 08.22.2016 /// 5:02am

    Wow, I looooved this interview. What a wonderful artist, and just hearing about her experience painting Milly and the baby, it’s just so incredible, I almost teared up. Keep up the great work Ali, your art is just incredible and gives people hope.

  17. Susy /// 10.11.2017 /// 6:00pm

    So so beautiful, both the artwork and Ali’s creative spirit. She’s such an inspiration as an artist…and human being. I just listened to this episode again today and its my favourite, which is hard to say because all the interviews are wonderful. Something about this one touches me deeply. xo

  18. the jealous curator /// 10.11.2017 /// 8:17pm

    me too.

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