I’m a creative, experienced, multi-purpose artist and art director
who can take projects start to finish in a variety of styles.

Good designs sell –
my designs sell out!

Saturday, February 6, 2016

"Mystery"

Sharon commented on my last post that I "remember every detail" of my childhood, which is ironic since I've spent a lot of this week sifting through the mystery of my brain and questioning a lot of what I've been finding in there, especially the gaps.

Becky died of cancer this week.  In a tiny, secluded neighborhood with very few children, she was the girl closest to my age.  I cried when I heard she'd died, and cried more as additional memories of the things we did together surfaced.  Little moments shared, but they were mostly quiet moments, and too easily forgotten.

Becky was the nicest girl you could meet.  I called her Becky Thatcher while I identified to Huckleberry Finn.  She laughed and liked the comparison.  She laughed a lot.  She didn't have the slightest interest in acting out with me.  She didn't understand my competitive nature with board games, and didn't want to play Tarzan by swinging on grape vines.

I couldn't get her to climb the cliff, but she went to the Great Wall of China?!
The image I have of myself as a child is as quiet and bookish, but Becky made me look like an extraverted rabble rouser.  Memories of pointless urging to get her to take risks causes me to notice that I took a lot of them.  "Let's climb the cliff!"  "Why?"  "To see if we can!"  "There's nothing up there."  "But it's 'there' instead of 'here'!"  She shook her head and went home because she refused to witness blood spilling.  She was far more sensible than me.  She was nicer.  Better?  Maybe just different?

We waited at the bus stop for 11 years together.  We rode the bus to school both ways together every single day.  We breathed on the cold windows and made handprints and pictures in the condensation together.  She's part of my DNA, and I feel like I took that so much for granted that now it's like examining a wash cloth for my missing skin cells.

It's been a while since we'd seen each other.  The last time she was with her mom at the outdoor market and I was with mine.  As the moms made polite conversation, she seemed glad to see me, friendly... and we parted ways with smiles and waves never to see each other again.  It's inexplicable to me.  53 years old and no more.

My sister has told me not to keep my "death list".  It's a sorry, sorry path I travel each time one of my peers in the Glen dies, and I've really got to stop it -- but I won't.  Remembering Becky, Donna, Melanie, Barb, Kenny, Timmy, Andy, Earl, even Vaughn is a way to make their lives still current and fool myself that our lives matter.

The more Becky memories that I drag out of my subconscious, the sadder I am to have lost her -- with a pile of regrets that we didn't make more of an effort to keep up with each other than our occasional adult accidental meetings.

Becky, I loved you so completely that there wasn't an outside edge of it for me to notice that it even existed.  It's like noticing where air stops.  A part of you will always be with me.  Thank you.  And for everyone else who loved her, you have my deepest sympathies.  We're all better for having known her.

Friday, January 29, 2016

"Smart"

I have the perfect post for "smart", but I can't show it until April.  Such a shame.  You see, I've been doing illustrations for the magazine "Mensa Bulletin" for their 50th anniversary edition.  This isn't making me rich, but I'm enjoying doing it, and I am getting paid.  Well, they said I'd get paid.  I haven't actually seen any money yet.

Mensa is a group for people who score in the top 2% of IQ tests.  I don't like to admit it very often, but I'm a card-carrying member.  I find this embarrassing, I suppose like someone in AA would feel.  If you're an alcoholic around other alcoholics, it's perfectly fine to admit you're a drunk.  If you're smart, it's okay to admit you're a geek to other geeks.  They're my people.  I love them.  We have great conversations over bagels. 

I learned cool stuff about mercury from a respected chemist this month, and he seemed tickled to find someone interested in learning about it.  I have no plans to do anything with mercury, and he won't repair his mercury clock because filling it with mercury would be too heavy and toxic.  I know, nobody else cares.  That's why there's a group for people who like to learn completely useless stuff, where nobody rolls their eyes at us.

I've spent a lot of my life hiding my brains because it's so uncool.  Being "too smart" can get you beat up on the playground, though luckily I never had that problem.  I suppose some people feel intimidated by Mensans, but I've found most of them to be open and helpful in explaining anything and everything that anyone else wants to know.  They're like Labrador retriever mutts.  Stick!  Cool!  Let me get that for you!  Do you want another stick?  Squirrel?  Sock?  Ball!!!

My original plan in joining in my 20s was to find someone interesting to date.  That accomplished, I let my membership lapse.  It wasn't until a lot of years later, and the breakup of another relationship, that I decided that I just wanted to hang out with my kind.  I discovered my brain was really, really rusty.  I felt intimidated and didn't say much until I discovered that Mensans are just like everyone else.  They've got opinions and biases.  They're nice or not.  The only thing you know they've got in common is that they're good at taking tests.

Many of the members are scientists and engineers, though there are a splattering of artists mixed in.  I think plenty of artists would qualify if they believed they could because artists often have that same kind of interest in everything.  Artists devote a lot of time to reading and studying all sorts of things.  There's a young lady in my group who loves Harry Potter as much as I do.  It's not all about molecular chemistry.  We spent an afternoon coloring together recently.

Sometimes the young daughter of a member comes to our group.  She colored with us too, and she blends as well as the grandparents in our group.  Age, sex, color, etc. doesn't matter, and I really enjoy diversity.

I can't show you my illustrations until after the magazine comes out, but this hand is a teaser.  It's about 1" x 1 1/2" of a full-page.  The art editor likes my efforts and gave me another full page to do.  Yay!  I expect to fully enjoy my weekend :)

Saturday, January 23, 2016

"Orbit"

It seems to me that everything large, and everything microscopic, and everything in between acts the same.  Electrons orbit around nuclei, and moons orbit around planets, and planets orbit around suns, and the entire universe is spinning.  This can all make you kind of crazy if you think about it too much, and I don't even do drugs.

A former coworker once told me she was unfriendly and uncooperative when I started my job because she had really wanted her college friend to get the position.  How could I know her friend applied for the job?  How could I know my coworker's misguided loyalties would make my life difficult?  There were invisible orbits of people around me, and all I knew is that I was trying my best with inexplicable obstacles in my path.

Jennie Cramer was my Grandma's mom, Thomas L. Lee was my Grandpa's dad.
I don't know why I started remembering this, but then I couldn't stop thinking about it.  All this time later, I want to yell "I won't do crazy with you!"  This woman is still in the outer orbit of my life.  She puts effort into looking and acting professional.  You'd never know she'd sabotage her own job for the benefit of someone who didn't qualify for mine.

Sometimes we have to accept that there are invisible forces around us, and we may or may not learn what those forces are.  We just have to do our best despite it all.  I'm glad this woman confessed her motivations to me because she illuminated a life lesson that these people walk amongst us.  They look normal, and I don't think knowing her thoughts would've been helpful at the time.  What could I do?  Quit my job so her friend could be rejected again?

Don't judge my lit -- these are my popular light reading when I have a bad day :)
This is the kind of stuff I thought about while consolidating my library this week.  I built a bookcase because I had a vision of the perfect bookcase -- which of course nobody sells ready-made.  I'm not saying it's the best bookcase, but it's the best for my space.

Advertising on the back of the textbook.
I gathered my books from around the house (which are HEAVY by the way) and hauled them upstairs.  Then I had to sort them all, then of course I had to alphabetize them... well okay, I'm my own kind of crazy, but I was a great page when I worked at the Columbus Library, and now I can find any book in a moment, and all of my series are together.

Anyway, I mused about the old coworker and I handled my treasures, which include these old schoolbooks from my ancestors.  I love seeing the signatures of my great grandparents on the fly leaves and the old illustrations...  It takes a long time to shelve books when I have such lovely distractions along the way.

These books aren't in good condition, but I suppose they could be in worse shape.  To put it in perspective, they're from not long after the American Civil War.  You know, like when people were slaves.  That seems long ago to me -- or maybe the flip side of it is that slavery really wasn't long ago at all?  Which puts the idea of crazy coworkers into perspective, doesn't it?

You can see the bindings on the old books at left are gone or falling apart
If anyone knows the best way to store these books, please let me know.  I'd like to prevent further decay.  I'd like to put them in boxes, but not sure if I should wrap them up in something first?

Saturday, January 16, 2016

"Spin"

We used to put our arms out and spin.  We'd get so dizzy we'd fall down and couldn’t stand up again without wobbling and staggering, often running into our playmates and making them fall down too.  Or, sometimes they’d push us so we wobbled more.  We laughed a lot because it was all so silly.  We used to hold our breath and hope to faint too.  I’m not sure if we caused brain damage.

Most of my childhood lacked toys.  I know this sounds impossible for today’s young’uns, but we often just played with our bodies.  Tag, Crack the Whip, Mother May I?  It was kind of a big deal when we got a Frisbee or a Hula Hoop.  Now that I’m thinking about it, a lot of our play involved rotation.

I was expected to go outside to play, without bothering adults, but Grandpa had actual toys. There was a mechanical tin top, a cast iron truck that escaped WWII recycling, games, cards, wooden enigma puzzles… Grandpa liked playing all sorts of things, especially Jarts when they came out.  Flying, lethal weapons were great.  You just wouldn’t suspect it from him since he was so quiet, gentlemanly, and civilized.

I kind of wish I’d kept more of Grandpa’s toys, but there’s only so much stuff I really need to keep.  My plumbing disaster a few years ago went a long ways towards curing me of some of my hoarding tendencies.  There’s nothing like looking at blooming mold on something to break my sentimental attachments to it.  (You know when mold is “blooming” when it gets colorful and lethal.)

I talked of teeter totters a couple of weeks ago.  On the same school playground we also had a merry-go-round.  I loved it.  You push it in circles and then jump on to delight in the momentum.  If you have a group of kids, a designated kid(s) pushes while the others enjoy the ride.

Not my merry-go-round, but close enough
Sometimes I remember myself as a solitary kid.  I felt alone too often -- then I think of swings and teeter totters and merry-go-rounds and know that I played with the other kids often enough to have a world of happy memories.

Mom threatened to keep me home from school if I didn’t cooperate with her.  "NOoooooo!!!”  I’d eat lumpy oatmeal on my deathbed to "get to" go to school.  One time I had to walk, which was miles of pretty much vertical climbing since I lived in the deep river valley.  School was half over by the time I got there, but I still took my turn pushing the merry-go-round with my tired, rubbery legs even though I was criticized by my peers for a lackluster effort that day.

When I substitute taught, I was surprised to see that most kids don’t play on the playground.  They cluster in 2s or 3s and text.  They do that in gym too.  They don’t look happy, and I’m sure they’re missing important life lessons.  Our society says “safe” is more important than play, and I think that’s dead wrong.  Okay, maybe padding under the playground equipment is a good idea, or teeter totters that aren’t quite so high, but take away the cell phones and push kids into the cold to play.  Running will warm them up.

I can still hear the squeals of laughter at my school.  Nice children with active bodies and cooperatively competitive natures.  I wish that for today’s kids too.

Saturday, January 9, 2016

"Tropical"

I get a free lunch every day at work.  I like this perk, and I like that I often get fresh pineapple.  I think that's about all I've got for "tropical", which seems like an unfair word for the week in Ohio January where it's gray, wet, and cold.  I wish I was a snowbird.

"Snowbirds" are people who live in beautiful Ohio spring through fall, then go to Florida for the winter.  Lucky, lucky people who've got more money and options than I've got at the moment.  (Hi Steve and Dr. Jim!)

I didn't get to see Florida until I was an adult, but it seemed like everyone else got family vacations to the "Sunshine State".  Other kids went to Disney World.  I camped on a rock in Canada.  Don't get me wrong, Canada is beautiful, and I love the woods, but I think I would've liked seeing Walt in Florida too.

I eventually got to Disney World.  I went with my little brothers and Mom one year.  One of those brothers sulked the whole time because we took them out of school during the school carnival.  The other brother was delighted to see places that they'd been studying in Social Studies.  Clearly, you can't please everyone.
Pete caught actually laughing in Florida
after a big wave just smacked both of them
Some people love traveling.  I like seeing new sights, but often dislike the process of getting there.  Sometimes it's nicer to enjoy seeing other people's travels through the internet without the bother of getting out of my bathrobe.

I like seeing what other people find interesting in their travels.  I like seeing other people's normal when they post pictures or write about their regular lives in other places.  I especially like seeing someone else's art of their normal.  Prickly pears in the back yard?  Great!  Maybe I'll paint the flowers or weeds in my yard sometime.

I threw branches at a raccoon family eating the goldfish in my pond, and someone else didn't know what a raccoon is -- or why I wasn't charmed by the cute little varmints.  Because they carry rabies and were eating my goldfish!  Skunks are cute too, but they sprayed my dog and I lived with a fog of toxic fumes for a couple of weeks no matter how many times I washed her.

I can safely laugh at other people's skunked dogs through blogs without having to actually experience it.  I'm pretty sure I can find an interesting restaurant in Cleveland without having to swat tsetse flies too.

But then, this time of year I wish I were a snowbird.  I'd like to walk on the beach without the arctic blast of wind coming from the north.  I'd pick up pretty seashells and worry about sharks and sunburn or something.  Clearly, I need a real vacation, and the only way to have that is to pack up and go.  "Tropical" sounds great in the winter!

Saturday, January 2, 2016

"Moon"

I woke up on the wrong side of the bed this morning, and then spent a stupid amount of time thinking about that expression, then thought about why things that bothered me before have suddenly become intolerable.  This must happen to others or the expression wouldn't exist, right?  Let's blame it on the phase of the moon.

I've spent the last couple of days doing some heavy lifting and cleaning.  Maybe all that effort broke down defenses that I didn't realize I had in place?  I fell asleep early from exhaustion and my dreams wouldn't leave me alone.  Maybe part of it was from a comment a friend made the other day.  He said nasty people say awful things to nice people because they know the nice people won't say awful things back.

Too true.  Bullies often win.  But it's a new year, I'm sweeping the dust, rearranging furniture, and somewhere in all this I'm tired of licking wounds that never heal.  I'm not much for New Year resolutions, but I am resolving to quit putting up with people who don't add value to my life.

There are nice, good people in the world.  If you've been blessed to spend your life around those kinds of people, I hope you appreciate them.  If you've spent your life around un-nice people, well, go find the nice ones.

Back in the olden days when children got muddy and played on the playground without safety equipment, we played on teeter totters.  Not the wimpy, plastic rockers that they sell these days, but long, hard, wood constructions.  I loved them.  Proper seesawing meant you needed to have at least one comparably-sized friend to play with.  If you were really social, you could put 2-3 friends on each end.  And yes, in those days the girls did this in dresses (though this pic is from before my time).

Back and forth, back and forth... and then when one of the players had been lulled into complacency... jump off!  If you did this right, your friend would be at the apex of the rocking cycle and suddenly crash to Earth in a tailbone smashing impact... with a bounce and a secondary crack to the coccyx.

Most often we laughed and the victim would laughingly vow vengeance.  The first perpetrator would get their comeuppance, though if you were really on the ball you could jump off before impact.  Once in a while the collision would actually harm a kid (which I suppose is why today's kids have plastic rockers) and the kids on the playground would sympathetically gather around the kid rolling on the ground with a broken tailbone while a teacher was found for her usually unsympathetic supervision.

This was all important education about the laws of Newtonian physics because we were living "for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction".

My New Year's resolution is to jump off the seesaw.  What's yours?

Saturday, December 26, 2015

"Soar 2"

I hope everyone had a merry Christmas!  I always find this in-between week before New Year's contemplative.  It's dark outside and I don't have to work as many days.  There's time for looking back over the year and thinking about what the new year will bring.

Looking over my past year, painting my floor was the most obvious thing I did.  It certainly required the most time, June - October.  The less obvious element of it is that I used all that time to think about relationships.

It wasn't a happy year for me.  My brother-in-law died, which was very shortly after my friend died, and a co-worker's husband.  I was effected by the Paris shooting, which was only one of many shootings in 2015.  There were a lot of contentious meetings and reports at work.

I just wasn't happy, and didn't feel like I was getting the outside support I needed.  I pondered who was good for me and who wasn't when Danny's cancer recurred and almost killed him just when Gary killed himself, and that was followed by 2 more suicides.  I fell off my deck so hard that my body hurt as much as my heart and mind.

So the year started hard, but spending all that time painting the floor made me more flexible in more ways than one.  My general outlook on life improved, and the ladies at work went out of their way to feed me positive thoughts.  I helped avert another suicide, and feel pleased with myself that I set and maintained my boundaries in the process.  The year is ending with 2 new babies in my environment and I feel happiness to be in the afterglow of those families' happiness.

Against all of this, I repeatedly met ghosts from my past this year.  We stood on my floor and shared stories about the Glen.  I saw their positive memories of me reflected in their faces, and I was given a chance to redefine myself to myself.

I drank bourbon in Kentucky, which has turned into a lesser hobby.  So far I've enjoyed cherry-aged and honey bourbons the best.  I got a new neighbor and was assigned an extra hobby of staring out the kitchen window to look for her missing cat while I made a lot of applesauce.  My dog got skunked.  I took a painting retreat to Lake Chautauqua, NY and started illustrating things for a magazine.

Helen and her halo
This is life.  Sometimes we have challenges and grief to deal with.  Sometimes we get to smile at a baby.  This week I helped Helen, our cheerful, colorful, and kind volunteer with her Christmas cookies.  She knows all about life's ups and downs, and usually has an off-color quip and a hearty laugh to get through those peaks and valleys.  She made 17 kinds of cookies this year and gave them to people she appreciates including her doctors, church, friends, family, etc., etc.  Her spirit of gratitude and giving is inspiring (and her cookies are delicious!)

Helen supervising cookie trays

Josie helped package cookies too


Here's to hoping that all of us have a wonderful New Year filled with cookies!