Painting without a brush THE ARTS AND THINGS TO DO John Mishler uses toothpicks in his take on pointillism. THE ARTS AND THINGS TO DO

Posted: June 01, 2003

DOYLESTOWN BOROUGH — A swirl of color mimicking the curve of a teacup handle takes only seconds to apply with a stroke of the brush.

For John Mishler, the seconds can turn to hours as he covers the same area, dot by meticulous dot, using a toothpick dipped in ink.

In his variation of the pointillism brush technique developed by French artist Georges Seurat, Mishler favors a toothpick to create the optical blending of colors.

"Pointillism is a vehicle that allows me to transport ideas from mind to paper. A brush is too coarse. It can't do that for me. A toothpick does," Mishler said.

He is captivated by the style that suggests flowing colors when viewed at a distance and manifests individual points of color close up.

His abstract work, which has been accepted into juried exhibitions throughout the United States, is on display through June 16 at the 75th annual Art Association of Harrisburg. One of his most prestigious awards, he said, was the President's Award from a juried exhibition last year at the Salmagundi Club in New York.

Mishler was described as an energetic artist who pushes the envelope by Mary Katz, owner of the Sabine Rose Gallery in Doylestown Borough. His works, which were featured at the gallery earlier this year, appear on the Web site

"They are strong images and capture a mood and emotion," she said. "There's an energy you can't get with more conventional techniques."

Mishler creates the images at his kitchen table, where a shoe-box lid filled with ink bottles butts up against the day's mail. A box of toothpicks is open next to Mishler's work-in-progress. The untitled piece is taped to a board lying flat on the table.

Mishler described the forms on the paper as tree trunks taking on human characteristics.

"You're always trying to tell a story as an abstract painter. Because it's abstract, I can lead you somewhere. It doesn't mean you have to go there," said Mishler, who sports a handlebar mustache that blends into a gray beard.

The titles of the paintings throughout his second-floor apartment hint at the stories Mishler hopes to convey. Day Night Transitions, Four of the Muses, Reef, and At the Moment of Death are among the paintings hanging in the bedroom, office and bathroom.

His wife of 21 years, Sigrid Fischer-Mishler, said with admiration that his works stick out "like a sore thumb" compared with the popular Bucks County landscapes.

"She's the best critic I've ever had," said Mishler, who met "Ziggy" when he traveled to Germany for a fellowship as a research scientist in the late 1970s.

Mishler, who holds a doctorate in immunohematology from the University of Oxford in England, sees no contradiction in his roles as scientist and artist.

"As a molecular biologist, I had to imagine a lot. What enzymes are doing for instance," said Mishler, adding that scientists, like artists, are detail-oriented.

Mishler entered the world of academia 20 years ago at the University of Missouri. Since 1996, he has been a professor of biology at Delaware Valley College in Doylestown. It was that year that he started to fill his summer vacations with dots of color.

The following year, he entered a juried exhibition at the Stover Mill Gallery in Erwinna. Taking second prize in his first competition had him hooked.

"You want to see how your work compares to others, how experts view your work," he said.

Mishler, who estimated that he had created 50 images, said he found it difficult to part with the paintings.

"Initially, I didn't want to sell them because I liked them," he said. "Now, I want to get into solo and exhibition shows, and they generally take between 20 to 40 paintings."

His paintings are displayed with wide white mats and simple wood frames. Some of his works contain multiple small paintings mounted as a group.

The different methods he uses to apply the ink account for the variations in the intensity and shading of colors. There is the single layer of ink dots applied by the tip of a toothpick. Flashier colors are achieved by applying layer upon layer of an ink that contains shellac.

Mishler uses a thicker white ink for texture. Some of his paintings incorporate a combination of dots and blotted beads of ink.

In contrast to most of his paintings, which take three weeks to eight weeks to complete, the "fast and dirty" works are created by spreading drops of ink with the side of a toothpick, he said.

He estimated that his matted, unframed pieces would sell through a gallery for $200 to $400. A framed piece would range from $250 to $1,500 depending on size, he said.

"Most people who buy art are rather utilitarian, making sure the red matches their red couch rather than considering how the painting affects them emotionally," Mishler said. "Very few buy art who understand technique. . . . Those are the clients you seek out."

Send Arts news to suburban staff writer Valerie Reed, The Inquirer, 830 Town Center Dr., Langhorne, Pa. 19047; e-mail it to; or fax to 215-702-7820. Contact Valerie Reed at 215-702-7806 or


John Mishler

Age: 56

Inspiration: "I'm going to lump everyone together in a sense. I admire all artists who never stop trying to paint the perfect picture. . . . You have to admire someone who doesn't give up."

Favorite artist: "Jackson Pollack. He tried something new in the face of convention and was willing to continue in light of a certain hostility."

Favorite quote: From The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery. "It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye."

Special Events

Pennsylvania Fair Live music, carnival rides, livestock competitions, baking & culinary contests, pig races, arm wrestling challenge, more. Philadelphia Park, Street & Richlieu Rds, Bensalem; 215-633-0404. $6. noon-2 p.m. 6/1.

Washington Crossing Historic Park Memorial Bldg, N of Rtes 532 & 32, Washington Crossing; 215-493-4076. Site of Washington crossing Delaware prior to Battle of Trenton; with 18th cent McConkey Ferry Inn & Thompson-Neely House, 19th cent Taylorsville village, Bowman's Hill observation tower, 500 acres of woods. $5; $4 seniors; $2 ages 6-17. Visitors Center: 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Tues-Sats, noon-5 p.m. Suns.

Water Show Pennsbury Falconettes Synchronized Swim Team performs. Medill Bair Sports Complex, Hood Blvd, Fairless Hills; 215-547-7974. $3; $2 children. 2:30 p.m. 6/1.

Antique Show Over 100 vendors. Tinicum Park, River Rd, Erwinna; 610-294-9420. $6. 10 a.m.-4 p.m. 6/1.

*FREE* Arts Weekend Artist displays & demonstrations, chidren's puppet show & workshop, student art exhibit. Middletown Municipal Center, 3 Municipal Way, Langhorne; 215-750-3890. Noon-4 p.m. 6/1.

Jamboree Fundraiser Live country music, dancing, raffles, food & beverages. Morrisville Senior Center, 31 E Cleveland Ave, Morrisville; 215-295-0567. $6; $5 at door. 2:30-8:30 p.m. 6/1.

Kitchen & Garden Tour Tours of 7 properties in Doylestown; self-guided. 215-348-3913 ext 114. $15; ages 12 & under free. 1-5 p.m. 6/8.

Pearl S Buck International Day Multicultural entertainment, ethnic food, activities, games, crafts, vendors, children's activities, Woman of the Year Award presentation. Pearl S Buck Historic Site, 520 Dublin Rd, Hilltown; 215-249-0100. $10 per car. 11 a.m.-4 p.m. 6/14.

Performing Arts

In Concert

Betty-Jean Rieders Mezzo-soprano, Robert Rosenberger, piano; work by Bach, Tosti, Stradella, Handel, Vaughan Williams, Rodgers & Hammerstein. James-Lorah Recital Hall, 132 N Main St, Doylestown; 215-598-3884. $15; $10 seniors; free ages under 16. 7:30 p.m. 6/5.

*FREE* Bucks County Community College Library Auditorium, 275 Swamp Rd, Newtown; 215-968-8088.

Claire Huangci Piano; work by Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Chopin. Anchor Presbyterian Church, 980 Durham Rd (Rte 413), Wrightstown; 215-848-1370. $16; $11 seniors, students; $8 ages under 17. 5 p.m. 6/1.

International Dance Music Jams Open to musicians, singers. Belmont School, 200 Anderson Rd, King of Prussia; 610-688-3284. $3. 8-9:30 p.m. 3d Mons.

Bookstores, Coffeehouses and Libraries

*FREE* Doylestown Library Center 150 S Pine St, Doylestown; 215-348-0332 ext 132.

Auditions & Rehearsals

Centennial Singers Chorus McDonald School, 851 E Street Rd, Warminster; 215-442-1178. Member call: open to new members, esp tenors & basses.

Langhorne Players Spring Garden Mill Playhouse, Rte 332, Newtown; 215-860-0818.

Lansdowne Symphony Orchestra 28 N Lansdowne Ave, Suite 1, Lansdowne; 610-284-3719. Ongoing auditions. Call for appt.

The Newtown Arts Company Newtown Middle School, Rtes 413 & 322, Newtown; 215-860-9818.

Yardley Players Theater Company Kelsey Theater, Mercer Co Community College, 1200 Old Trenton Rd, West Windsor; 215-968-1904.


Barnes Foundation Arboretum 300 N Latches Ln (2 blocks N of 54th St & City Line Ave), Merion; 610-667-0290. . 12 acres of native, European, Asiatic specimen trees, shrubs. $5. 9:30 a.m.-5 p.m. Fris-Suns (Weds-Fris, July-Aug). Reservations required: 610-667-0290 option 5.

Bowman's Hill Wildflower Preserve River Rd (Rte 32), New Hope; 215-862-2924. Bird walks. $5. 9 a.m. Sats through 6/21. 100 acres with marked trails. Guided walking tour: 2 p.m. daily. $5; $3 seniors; $2 ages 4-14; free ages under 4 (includes tour). Center: 9 a.m.-5 p.m. daily. Grounds: 8:30 a.m.-sunset daily.

*FREE* Bucks County Audubon Society Visitor Center, 2877 Creamery Rd (2 miles E of Peddler's Village), Solebury; 215-297-8266. Walks. 10 a.m. Sats. Bird walks. 8:30 a.m. Suns. Grounds walks. $3. 1-2 p.m. Suns. Historic 1930s barn, plus bird blind. 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Mons-Sats, noon-4 p.m. Suns. Outdoor programs rain or shine. *FREE* Green Lane Nature Center Rte 29, Green Lane; 215-234-8497. Leaves of Three, Let it be. Meet: Central Perkiomen Park (Ranger Hut), Plank Rd, Schwenksville. Free. 2 p.m. Sun Hours: 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Mons-Sats, noon-4 p.m. Suns.

*FREE* Honey Hollow Environmental Center & Bucks County Audubon Visitor Center, 2877 Creamery Rd (2 miles E of Peddler's Village), Solebury; 215-297-8266. Walks. 10 a.m. Sats. History walks. 1 p.m. Suns. Historic 1930s barn, plus bird blind. 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Mons-Sats, noon-5 p.m. Suns. Outdoor programs rain or shine.

*FREE* Nockamixon State Park 1542 Mountain View Dr, Quakertown; 215-529-7300. Boat rentals, fishing, hiking, bicycle trails. 8 a.m.-sunset daily.

*FREE* Peace Valley Nature Center 170 Chapman Rd (entrance from New Galena Rd), Doylestown; 215-345-7860. Bird walk. 7 a.m. Sats. Family walk. 2 p.m. Suns. Hours: 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Tues-Suns. Most walks rain or shine.

*FREE* Schmieder Arboretum Delaware Valley College, 700 E Butler Ave, Doylestown; 215-489-2283. 60 acres with specialty gardens, trails, pond, more. Dawn-dusk daily.

*FREE* Silver Lake Nature Center 1306 Bath Rd, Bristol; 215-785-1177. Bird walks. 7:20 a.m. Sats. Family walks. 2 p.m. Suns. 385 acres, over 3 miles of trails. 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tues-Sats, noon-5 p.m. Suns.

Museums & Attractions

Glencairn Museum 1001 Cathedral Rd, Bryn Athyn; 215-938-2600. Permanent collections: ancient Egypt, Greece, Rome, Near & Far East, Native Americans; medieval collections of Raymond Pitcairn. $8; under age 5 free. 9 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Mons-Fris by appt, 2-5 p.m. 2d Sun of month.

Mercer Museum 84 S Pine St, Doylestown; 215-345-0210. Children's exhibit "Animals on the Loose! A Mercer Menagerie." Closes 1/5. Animal tales with Garden State Storytellers League. 2-4 p.m. Sun. Built by Hand: Aesop's Fables in Clay Family Craft Series. $45 individual class per family; $160 entire series per family; Noon-2 p.m. Suns. Registration required. Tile manufacturer Henry Mercer's castle with pre-industrial American furnishings, implements, tools. $6; $5.50 seniors; $2.50 students & ages 6-17; free ages under 6. Joint admission, Michener/Mercer Museums: $10 (adults only). 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Mons-Sats (to 9 p.m. Tues), noon-5 p.m. Suns.

*FREE* Sellersville Museum 120 E Church St, Sellersville; 215-257-5253. Permanent: History of Sellersville: church, school, commerce. Noon-4 p.m. 2d Sat-Sun of month.

Winding Brook Farm 3014 Bristol Rd, Warrington; 215-343-8880 or 215-348-5514. Working dairy farm with 250 cows, corn, strawberry & wheat fields, weekly hayride tours. 11 a.m. Mons-Sats. $5.

For Kids & Teens

*FREE* Barnes & Noble 1271 Knapp Rd, North Wales; 215-699-3099. Story Times; preschoolers. 10 a.m. Mons & Thus.

*FREE* Borders 2343 E Lincoln Hwy, Langhorne; 215-943-6600. Storytime & crafts; all ages. 11 a.m. Thus & Sats.

Jewish High School Choir Hazamir: The National Jewish High School Choir seeks new members grades 8-12 from area. Rehearsals at Gratz College (Mandell Education Campus), 7605 Old York Rd, Melrose Park; 215-635-7300 ext 138. Call for rehearsal dates.

Middletown Twp Recreation Dept Children's programs. Middletown Community Center, 2140 Trenton Rd, Levittown; 215-750-3890. Youth Karate, ongoing classes. Various times, days, age groups. Teen Task Force: skating, rock climbing, refreshments. 2d Fri of month. Summer Recreational Basketball League; boys ages 10-18, girls ages 10-16. 6/16-7/25. Call for times & fees. Registration required.

Newtown Twp Parks & Recreation Newtown Elementary School, 1 Wrights Rd, Newtown; 215-968-2800 ext 239. Hooked-On Fishing Workshop. 6/25. Call for schedule & fees. Registration required.

Parent & Tot Playgroup Warminster Parks & Recreation, 1101 Little Ln, Warminster; 215-443-5428. $1 per child per time slot. 10:45-11:45 a.m. & 1:15-2:15 p.m Tues & Thus, ongoing. Registration each day at 9 a.m

Youth Karate Ongoing classes. Middletown Community Center, 2140 Trenton Rd, Levittown; 215-750-3890. $40 per month; $35 residents. Ages 4-9: 6-7 p.m. Ages 10 & up: 7:15-8:15 p.m. Mons. Registration required.

Area Library Programs

Events free unless noted.

Pre-registration required for most programs.

Bensalem Library 3700 Hulmeville Rd, Bensalem; 215-638-2031. Storytimes: Ages 2 & under, 9:30 a.m. Thus. Mother Goose Time, ages 2-3, 10 & 11 a.m. Thus. Ages 4-5, 1:30 p.m. Tues & 10 a.m. Fris. Registration required for most programs.

Bucks County Library Center 150 S Pine St, Doylestown; 215-348-9082 ext 120. French classes. Ages 4-5, 10-10:30 a.m.; ages 6 & up, 10:45-11:30 a.m. Sats. 6/14-28. Science in the Summer: Simple Machines. Fall grades 2-3, 10 a.m. or 1 p.m.; grades 4-6, 11:15 a.m. or 2:15 p.m. 6/23-26. Summer Reading Club; fall grades 1-5; grades 6-8 as assistants. Various times & days starting 6/30. Registration required for most events.

Free Library of New Hope & Solebury 93 West Ferry St, New Hope; 215-862-2330. Storytime; ages 2-5. 10:45-11:30 a.m. Weds.

Margaret R Grundy Memorial Library 680 Radcliffe St, Bristol; 215-788-7891. Our Voices Teen Club; ages 12-18. 4 p.m. 4th Fri of month. Registration required.

Riegelsville Public Library 615 Easton Rd, Riegelsville; 610-749-2357. Story Hour; ages 4-7. 10:30-11:30 a.m. Sats. Yardley-Makefield Branch Library 1080 Edgewood Rd, Yardley; 215-493-9020. Registration required for most events.

For Singles

Common Bond For widowed, divorced, over 40. St John's Lutheran Church, 505 N York Rd, Hatboro; 215-675-3947. Free. Reservations required. Orientation (new members) 7 p.m.; discussion 7:30-9:30 p.m. 1st Sun.

Parents Without Partners BuxMont Chapter. 215-752-1250. Open dance with DJ. Dressy casual attire requested. $10. 9 p.m.-1 a.m. Fris. Call for location. Call for dates & locations. Professional & Business Singles Network 800-537-3859. Dinner social. Trattoria Alberto, 116 E Gay St, West Chester. $50 (prepaid reservation required). 6 p.m. reception, 7 p.m. dinner. Mon. Outdoor tennis. Rosemont College, Rosemont. $14.4:30 p.m.-dusk. 6/8 through 8/31. Intermediate & advanced players only. Phone: 610-359-9733.

Single Volunteers of Bucks County Singles help with events; sign up at meetings (6:30 p.m. Tues). Tyler State Park, 514 Swamp Rd, Newtown; 215-527-9488. Package meals for shut-ins; bring food donation of frozen vegetable or cooked meat. St Andrews Church, 81 Swamp Rd, Newtown. 7:30 p.m. 3d Weds.

*FREE* Singles Walks Peace Valley Nature Center, 170 Chapman Rd (entrance from New Galena Rd), Doylestown; 215-345-7860. 10 a.m.-noon 6/14.

St Christopher's Singles Social Support Club 55 & over widowed, divorced or never married singles. 215-918-8687 or 215-333-0337. Dance. $7. United German Hungarian Club, 4666 Bristol Rd, Oakford. 8:30-11:30 p.m. 1st & 3d Thus.

comments powered by Disqus