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, May 21, 2016

"Wheels"

Last week I wrote, "I finished painting my computer room this weekend.  It was a lot of work for such a small room, and my stuff is still scattered around the rest of the house.  I'm tired and sore."  This is all still true, except I'm still painting that room. 

I had painted three walls light gray and the fourth lavender.  It looked pretty good, but I just couldn't bring myself to love the lavender wall.  I bought fabric to make curtains, but couldn't love the idea of curtains either.  I kept handling the fabric and decided I wanted pull down shades instead, but I don't know how to get my fabric to be a pull down shade (and washable).  I noticed that lavender wall again and decided what I really wanted was to paint the pattern on the wall.

Still painting leaves.
Planning to cover the whole wall.
Sometimes my ideas are a bother.  I hate painting walls -- though for those of you who like doing it, there's always someone who wants a mural and will pay for it.  I became a "professional" artist in high school painting walls and window signs.

My dislike of wall painting hasn't stopped me.  I'm using the gray paint to paint the leaf pattern on the lavender and loving the results.  Hopefully at some point I'll stop fussing around in that room and actually put the computer back in the computer room.

The jeep is another piece I did for the Mensa magazine.  I only intended to do one illustration for them, but the art editor kept getting me to do "just one more".  I was enjoying myself so I let her talk me into it.  The article was about action in Vietnam and I conferred with a vet pal because the art editor made a point of saying I had to get the right model year.

My pal and I talked on the phone and Googled photos together.  Reference is so much easier now than when I started out  In the olden days I might've had to go to the library, use the card catalog and everything.  (Which I know only makes sense to people over 50.) 

I had to make a "morgue" for one of my teachers when I was in school, photos I painstakingly cut out of magazines and filed for future reference.  It's in the pile of stuff that I'm debating about whether or not to return to my computer room.  I also have folders of ideas and inspiration, folders of artists I like, "how to" instructions, etc., etc., etc.  I almost never use any of this stuff and probably don't need it.  The idea of throwing it away feels like ripping my security blanket away though.  What if I need to make an origami alligator sometime?!

The more I think about this, the more I'm thinking that it's time to let some of this go -- or revive it.  Sometimes we come across a great picture online.  Sure, we could come back to it -- if we remember where we saw it in the first place.  We may not need that picture now, but some day we may want a face that's lit in just that way or a spotted toad or whatever.

Let me say that "reference" is a tool to help us, but isn't something we should copy faithfully.  We should do something new with the inspiration because the original already exists.  I don't remember the exact copyright law, but it's something like changing 60% or more from the original.  Copying can be a good tool when we're starting out and learning, but the result isn't something you can sell.

I also keep things I call "art starts".  These are painted backgrounds, textures, objects, whatever that I can use again.  I still use these a lot.  Why should I paint a graduated blue watercolor background again when I've already painted that once and can PhotoShop it into a new piece?  I have lots of patterns that I can drop in when I need them and a deadline looms.

These are things I learned from old guys when I started out.  I miss being in a studio with them teaching me things and laughing.  I wish newer artists got the benefit of their wisdom.  I'm grateful I got to live the experience.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

"Nostalgia"

I finished painting my computer room this weekend.  It was a lot of work for such a small room, and my stuff is still scattered around the rest of the house.  I'm tired and sore.

This project has me both nostalgic and completely not.  Cobwebs behind the bookcase had to go, and I've felt the same way about a lot of other things that I had stored in that room, like bitchy correspondence I had with certain people that I kept "in case", but those times are long gone and never to return.  At some point I kept these things to remind myself never again.  Now it just seems like reminders of crappy people to whom I don't want to give another second of my life.

My goal is to only return things to the room that have actual value to me.  Maybe this room is even more important because it's the spirituality sector of my house according to feng shui.  I know this because I used to do freelance for a feng shui instructor/counselor.  I don't need that file either.  The pile of recyclables keeps stacking up.

I went through a stack of old phone bills last night.  Almost all of my long-distance calls involved my love life, and that makes me nostalgic and not too.  There have been some kisses worth remembering, but the relationships went sour.  Cleaning this room has made my thoughts swing back and forth, and I remind myself that the purpose of the room is work stuff, not kisses -- but art is love, so it all goes together.

The phone bills went into the discard pile too, but I wrote down the numbers and gave myself a time line.  I was a little torn about the sign manual I created for Lake Metroparks.  I was pretty pleased to come up with all these standards and procedures, but I know I'm never going to actually need this document.  My hoarding/purging qualities are at war.  Keeping the sign manual.

Ultimately, maybe all of this is telling me what I value most?  I'll spend quite a bit of money for long distance phone calls and eventual kisses.  I'm unwilling to let go of good work I did, and the things I learned while doing it.  I enjoyed working at the parks.  Loved the people I worked with.  That's the nostalgia worth keeping.

This illustration is another I did for Mensa.  I'll admit I gave more of myself to the colored illustrations I did for them, but I suppose this goes into the keeping pile too.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

"Tattoo"

I suppose we should all be happy that so many people have tattoos.  They're supporting art.  Unfortunately a lot of it's bad art and can interfere with getting an x-ray, but the trend lets more people suffer for their art and since I sometimes suffer making art, I like feeling understood.  If you've got a tattoo and you're happy, then I'm happy for you.

Onto other things.  I'm going to paint my computer room, the room where I store the bulk of my art supplies, reams of paper, rocks, etc., etc.  I've spent my weekend moving most of it into other rooms for the duration.  Moving some of this stuff brought up emotions, memories, dust, and dog hair.  I swear I'll move out of the house before painting this room again!  Today, I'm moving onto spackling water damage from a previously faulty gutter.  I watched a nice Australian man's video about how to do it.  I wish he were here to do it for me.

What I really want to do is show another piece that got printed in Mensa's 50th anniversary magazine.  The article is about word play, including "peppering Saracens".  I showed the magazine to the ladies who work in my department.  I got my atta girls and considered my bragging done.  Another woman came in so I showed her too.  She was excited and asked to show it around the building.  I let her do my bragging for me.

Maybe you get lots of positive reinforcement.  Betty showing off my work made me face that I've gotten a lot of negatives.  Art can be a competitive, brutal business.  You often get lots of criticism and revisions, and "good job!" is seldom in the vocabulary.

I spend my days with data at work.  The ladies in my dept know I've worked as an illustrator, but the other people didn't.  I liked it that way, maybe because I've spent so much of my life identifying myself first and foremost as an artist.  It was/is so much of how I think of myself, it's nice to be known for other traits -- or maybe I just didn't want to deal with more criticism and suggestions?

I went home that day feeling mighty pleased with myself.  People stopped me in the hall to say they were impressed.  I've been waiting a long time to be able to show this magazine and it felt good to be praised for it.  I felt a flicker of life and hope inside. They especially liked the parts that I spent stupid amounts of time doing.  (They loved my forks!)  Joy, joy, joy and I started to remember I really like getting this kind of feedback.  It motivated me to go into art for a living.

I've often been told to be demure.  Don't be so full of yourself.  Fact is, I think most of us beat ourselves up instead of bragging, and abuse isn't a good motivator.  If you want to get anywhere, sometimes you have to sing your own praises.  People who have my best interests at heart will sing them with me and share in the happiness I feel in my accomplishments.

Lots of people want to break into the art field.  Go for it.  I wish you happiness and success.  Don't let my artistic PTSD stop you.  I'm enjoying having a paycheck doing other things and exploring art as a pleasure again.  I'm happy for doing art I wanted to do for this magazine and pleased to cash the check!

Friday, April 29, 2016

"Smoke"

I have a small bundle of sage that was given to me by an Indian shaman.  Sometimes I burn it and inhale the fragrant smoke. Mostly I leave it in the china cupboard to remind me of meeting him.  I first posted this art in 2010.  You can read about my first experience with a sweat lodge here.  It's not the only time I've had shamanic experiences either.  You can read about my childhood experience rescuing a deer here.

Everybody and their sister told me not to go to California.  I had struck up a conversation with the shaman online and found out he’d been in prison and liked musicals.  Okay, I knew more than that.  We talked a lot one year.  I came to care for him quite a bit and I valued the spiritual insights I gained from his different upbringing and experiences.

He didn’t invite me to California.  I informed him I was coming.  Maybe this is something other people do, but I don’t.  I’m usually far more sensible and polite.  I combined the trip by meeting a close friend.

My girlfriend and her bf drove me about 1 ½ hrs in insane traffic to meet the shaman.  First impressions weren’t good, which just goes to show people deceive each other online.  My friend clearly didn’t want to leave me in his care and asked repeatedly if I was sure about it.  Yes, I was.  I can’t even tell you why either.  All common sense told me I’d cart my friend out of there if the shoe was on the other foot.

He took me to an affordable, clean hotel and left.  This was within walking distance to the ocean, and every day I walked miles along the water.  Every morning he called to find out where I was and picked me up.  We spent the days and evenings together, but not the nights – though one day he slept at the hotel while I babysat his nephew.  He was a gentleman throughout.

I tagged after him as he did his usual things, most of which involved trying to scrounge up money and jobs.  I met friends and relatives.  I shared ceremonial smoke and meals.  We threw food to seagulls and took long, scenic drives, and talked, talked, talked.

I can’t explain the ether of the whole experience.  I felt compelled to go.  I think I helped him?  He was worn from too many ministerial demands without compensation.  I reminded him his flock should feed him and make his life easier.  A dead shaman can’t help anyone.  He couldn't keep a regular job and stay constantly available for his people.

Every bit of common sense told me not to talk with him in the first place, and I'm not encouraging anyone to take risks as I did – but, it was a profound experience for me.  He is kind and self-sacrificing, sincere in his spirituality, and loved by those who know him.  We shared so much I can’t touch it here.   I'm lucky for the experience and the things he taught me.

In my day job I remind people that if you want clergy, please support them.  I'm not sure what my employers would think of my shamanic experiences, so maybe it's stupid to post this online, but I think the absolute rightness I felt about going to California meant it was right.  In the end, I guess what I'd suggest to everyone is to listen to that voice inside.  It's wiser than we are.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

"Prince"

I watched a Prince retrospective on tv and dreamt his songs all night.  I didn't even know I knew that many Prince songs.  I never paid that much attention to him, or at least that's what I thought when I heard he died this week.  I sent a condolence email to a friend of mine who looooved him and thought that's that, but the retrospective reminded me Prince was a changing factor in the world.

I'd forgotten about how he wrote "slave" on his cheek when he was mad at his record company.  He took control of his music, dressed like he wanted, wrote what he wanted, didn't talk to the media very much, and overall, I respected him.  He was role model to my friend, and I'm realizing he played that for me too in subtler ways.  His was a life well lived.  RIP and thank you.

I know, lots of people think they can't succeed for one reason or another.  Prince was an abused 5' 2" epileptic, effeminate black man.  That would be enough to stop most people from trying.  There are lots of incredibly talented people who never make it.  I suspect the biggest reason is because they don't believe they can so they never really try.

Many times I've been told to have "realistic" expectations.  Dream lower.  Don't be so full of myself to think I have what it takes to compete.  The people who've told me these things didn't want me to succeed.  People can be like a nest of hungry birds.  If a sibling gets a coughed up worm, that's one more worm the others didn't get.  They try to keep you weak so you can't lift your head.  Fighting in the nest takes so much work you can't fight for yourself in the greater world.

I don't want to get on stage like Prince.  I just want the best successes for the talents I have.  I finally received the Mensa 50th Anniversary Bulletin magazine for which I did 5 illustrations.  I love it when I see my work in print!  This full-page piece is for an article a father wrote about his elevator-loving, autistic son.  It was the first piece I've done like this in a long time, and I pushed myself and fought my inner critic to do it.  (Pat, pat myself on the head.)  Alright, I'm still fighting my inner critic because Isee things I'd like to fix, but enough.  I did it!  I feel a bit like the happy boy in the illustration.

The first step in doing it was deciding to try.  I wrote the art editor, attached samples, and expressed desire.  I got a response and had to maintain that desire.  It didn't help that I hated the first article she sent me.  When I rejected it, I felt like I'd shot myself in the foot, but she came back with this article and I was happy again.  I then went about the illustration in all the wrong ways and had to keep myself motivated to succeed.

My fights were entirely within myself.  The art editor gave me more articles.  Each got easier to accomplish as I went along.  I rejected a cover article because it just wasn't me, and that felt good too.

Prince set an example.  The autistic boy is another.  There are regurgitated worms for all of us if we dream, follow through, learn, and succeed.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

"Wood"

Last week I told you about fixing a door in my house.  I was feeling pretty pleased with myself.  I don't think anyone will notice that it was ever mutilated by Dalmatian toes.  It took a lot of effort to prime and paint the door.  I leaned back and admired my efforts... and noticed that the ceiling looked awfully dingy next to my stark white door.

I hemmed and hawed most of the week about not wanting to get into more projects because I have a new canvas I really want to paint... but that dingy ceiling interfered with my happiness.  Plus, this is the room where I painted the floor last summer and I might have been a bit too enthusiastic and splashed colors on the walls.  I'd just repaint the walls, but if I were to do that, I'd have to do the ceiling first...

My house is a currently a mess again.  I had it clean for about a day, but now stuff is spread all over again.  My goal is to get it all finished this weekend and have a normal house again by Monday, but the weather is finally wonderful and the grass needs cut, there's a concert in Cleveland...

And yet, the woodwork in my nearly 100 yr. old house has been dinged through the years, and fixing the woodwork feels connected to my internal being.  It feels essential.

I've done a lot a lot a lot of thinking in the last year.  That was my intention when I decided to paint the floor.  I wanted a long, involved project that would encourage thoughts and meditation.  I've done a lot of reading, studying, and reviewing my life and relationships.  I came to understand that I put up with too much from some people and situations, and putting up with dinged woodwork has become symbolic.  It's time my outer environment matches my enhanced inner world.

Very little of the damage to the woodwork was my fault.  People moved in and out, and none were careful enough in the process.  They didn't care about my house or feelings.  When I see a chunk gouged out of a door frame I think "You selfish bastard!  You didn't deserve my love, care, shelter _____ (fill in the blank).  Or, "I deserve better!"

I could continue ignoring these things like I have for a long time, but every so often I'll notice damage and feel something between irritation, depression, and anger.  It's a constant reminder of negatives.  When the woodwork is repaired to the best of my ability it will be a reminder that I control my life, and the next phase will be better.  I've learned things to make that happen.

I often write messages that we control our lives and can improve our lives.  It takes effort.  The effort is worth it.

My dad took a humanities class at a community college when I was a kid.  He carved this sculpture for an assignment to represent his "inner self".  I wish I'd asked what he was thinking when he did it.  He smiled with satisfaction and an inner conversation when he looked at it.  Maybe that is the ultimate goal for everything in our lives?

I thought you'd rather look at his artistry this week instead of wood mouldings and flat green walls :)

Saturday, April 9, 2016

"Tool"

I tagged after Dad when he fixed things.  I was great at handing over tools.  Crescent wrench, Philips screwdriver... I precisely handed them over like a surgical nurse in a MASH unit... until muttering and swearing started.  Then it suddenly seemed like a great idea to go to the river instead.  Dad could do carpentry, but the car brought out the "Jee-ee-SUS Christ!!"  That was the sign to flee.

I was a teenager when Dad died, and I became aware that he hadn't taught any of my siblings how to fix anything -- and yet stuff still needed fixed.  I also came to realize that I didn't really know how to fix a lot of things.  I knew my tools and had an idea of what they did, but my fixing lessons had often ended at the swearing, and I didn't see how things were completed.

Part of the Dad lessons had involved sitting in the shade with iced tea and contemplating our next project.  He encouraged me to think innovatively and considered my ideas, so I understood the theory of fixing stuff, if not the real experience.  When he was gone, I had to try on my own.  I quickly came to understand that swearing is an actual part of the process.  I got creative with that too, but left out the blasphemy.

I started feeling pretty good about myself for my home repair skills.  I may not have known what I was doing, but found ways to make the plumbing work and repair things Bro1 broke.  Just because I know how to replace a broken window doesn't mean I will.

When I bought an old house after college, Bros3&4 were old enough to get into trouble or help with projects when they came over for the weekends.  I reinstituted shady iced tea contemplations, and me and 2 little boys managed electricity, construction, wallpaper, and moved large objects.  I didn't actually need to do all this, but it was a good way for us to spend time together.  We went to the hardware store and talked to old guys who knew how to do things the right ways.  These are happy memories for all of us.

This week, I really looked at a door my Dalmatians scratched up about 20 or so yrs ago.  It's a nice door, with lots of panes of windows and decorative mullions between.  Looking at the deep scratches was depressing, and I was tempted to ignore it like I have for so long, but this time I decided to try fixing it with wood putty.

I did a pretty decent job of it.  I spent the entire day today painting it -- even though Ohio weather has gone back to winter and the whole project was lousy to do on a day when the daffodils shiver.  Not to mention I'm noticing all the other woodwork that could use wood putty and new paint.  I wish Bros3&4 were coming over for their weekend project.

Not knowing how to do something isn't a good reason not to try.  Nobody is born knowing how to fix anything, create something.  Encouraging children to think instead of merely existing and obeying is a gift that stays with them throughout their lives.  Thanks Dad!

I'm pooped from painting the door, so office tools are good enough for today.