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, December 8, 2018

"Chef"

I'm not a chef, but I've been telling people how to cook lately.  Okra?  Deep fry it.  Use it to thicken things.  It's just a green vegetable.  Hide it in soup or stew.  Too many peas?  They freeze well.  I freeze celery too.  Cut it up and freeze for later cooking.  Grated cauliflower?  Sauté, microwave, or add it to other things.  I bet it would be good mixed in with mashed potatoes.  I saw a creamy cauliflower soup on one of the cooking shows.

All of this cooking direction is the result of my latest volunteer efforts.  I stand in a cold parking lot and give food to people who need it.  I'm enjoying it, which seems a bit crazy since I'm freezing out there and it seems downright criminal that there are people in such a wealthy country who need food handouts, but everyone is so nice.  My fellow volunteers are nice and the recipients are nice.  They tell me how to cook things and I pass on their tips.  We all bond in the cold.

None of us have any say about what kind of food we'll be handing out, therefore, okra.  Despite its popularity in the South, very few people love it in Ohio.  We all know it's slimy and gross, even the majority who have never eaten it before.  Given a choice between okra and sugar snap peas, people took the peas.

The Canadian winds blowing off of Lake Erie are brutal.  I found my long johns and silk socks.  It helps.  I used hand warmers inside my winter gloves and sealed the leather gloves inside plastic food prep gloves.  I shiver and hop up and down while people laugh.  I never realized destitute people are so jolly, or grateful for that matter.

Oh sure, there's some crabby old women who demand butter when we don't have it that week.  Here, take some eggs.  Want some okra?  Actually, I think the brightest side of okra is the incredulous looks I got when I offered it.  The other bright spot was when an older man lit up like a Christmas tree when he saw the okra.  I gave him a lot of it since he seemed to be one of the few people who knew what to do with it.

One of my friends volunteers to serve dinners at a nearby church.  She happily stays inside where it's warm, but otherwise there are quite a few similarities: happy people, good food, camaraderie -- and the fact that there are people in the US who need free food.

It seems to me there are people who volunteer for things and many others who don't.  I think the ones who don't are missing out.  It doesn't have to be about food.  My dinner-serving friend used to volunteer as a receptionist at a children's hospital.  She's an elf for Santa's train.  I've volunteered at the parks and schools.  I tended flowers in city planters last summer.  Just pick something you like to do and find a place to do it.  The things you gain may be hard to quantify, but I'll bet it makes you feel better while making other people's lives better too.

If I haven't convinced you to volunteer somewhere, it's a good time of the year to give too.  Lots of charities need your support.  Pick one, or many, and spread some happiness.  If you want to give to Food Not Bombs, contact them at FNBeastCLE@gmail.com.  We're especially hoping someone will donate a used van, truck, or SUV for delivering food.

As for last week's deadline, yes, I got my project finished in time.  It didn't matter.  I'm in the middle of a major redirection of the project with a new short deadline.  Sigh.  Actually, before the sighs I had a temper tantrum by the latest instructions.  I've progressed to sighs.  Thankfully the only witness to my tantrum was my dog :)

Friday, November 30, 2018

"Fuzzy"

Bro2 got a Cavachon puppy.  I really should've taken a picture because he's extremely adorable even though he's so tiny it seems kind of silly to even call him a dog.  The cat towers over him and seems confused by ricocheting ball of energy flying around the house.  The picture below is somebody else's dog, but gives you an idea of general cuteness.

The original "owner" said she didn't want him anymore.  Bro had to take him for a bath and haircut before they could even go home together because the puppy's fur was so filthy and matted.  This makes me insane, but now the puppy is warm and fuzzy with his new butch haircut.  Bro even bought him a coat so he won't get cold on their walks.  They're going to be very happy together, so I guess all's well that ends well.  I was happy to visit and soak up puppy love and kisses.

I love puppies but I think my next dog might be an older animal.  Hopefully one who is already housebroken and doesn't chew on important things or walk through art projects.  Mostly I hope my ancient dog still has a few years in her.  I hope she likes playing with Bro's new puppy.  If not, she and the cat can cuddle in a corner and cast disapproving looks across the room until the little beast grows up and settles down.

I'd like to wax poetic about warm and fuzzy thoughts but my brain is jammed on the fact that I have a very hard deadline to meet.  I'll have to work through the weekend and my brain isn't helped by the fact that I'm having a hard time getting started on it.  The layout is approved, everything is set to go... and inertia.  I want to finish my latest painting instead.  My energy is pulled in opposing directions and nothing is getting done.  I hate that when that happens.

It will all work out.  I always meet deadlines.  It's just a question of how crazy I'll make myself before I get into a Zen state of productivity.  One of the things it took me a very long time to accept is that starting a project before my mind is on it is often pointless.  I blow time on "shortcuts" that take more time in the end as I laboriously fix things.  It's best to just do it right the first time.

This feels like a beginner's problem, but I suspect a lot of us do it.  We aren't machines.  We need to take time to cuddle fuzzy puppies, take a walk, or take a bath, or whatever it takes to blow off our procrastinating energies.  I guess the joy of maturity is knowing when we have a bit of time to waste and the confidence to know we can make up for that waste through experience?

You can think of it like Christmas shopping.  Some people have all their gifts in July.  Some by December 1.  Some wait until Christmas eve or even January.  The important thing is to know what you can live with and what others will accept -- and with that I'm feeling a whisper of positive deadline Zen...

I hope you are all enjoying the holiday season!

The last of my tomatoes from the garden!  Picked green to ripen inside,
this is the first time I've made them last until December.

Saturday, November 24, 2018

"Soccer"

I used to take my little brothers to soccer practice.  Kids ran down the field one direction, then ran in the other direction.  Back and forth, back and forth.  Sometimes it rained.  I didn't see why I should be punished for sports, especially for something as inconsequential as soccer.  It wasn't like it was something important.

I tried to be supportive since Bros wanted to play, but I suspect my priorities leaked into their priorities.  They can swim like fish because that's an important life skill.  Soccer?  I doubt they've played it since they were 10.  Of course it would be fine if they did want to play.  Healthy exercise outside is always good, but sports are just games.

Sometimes I feel like the only one in the world who could care less about sports.  Once in a while I pay attention because our team is in the playoffs or won the title and I have to look happy for the fans around me.  I'm happy they're happy, but c'mon everybody!  None of it matters!  (I'm now feeling like ducking because people will start throwing soccer balls at me, and I don't even know if Cleveland has a team.)

Maybe I get too serious?  There has to be more to life than work and obligations.  Maybe games matter?  I remember an afternoon spent with my sisters kicking a ball around after Dad told us about soccer.  It was a fun afternoon.  I wonder if I could get them to play again sometime?  Maybe we'd have an important sister bonding moment?

"All work and no play makes Johnny a dull boy."  It also leaches the life out of your creative pursuits.  You've got to play around with things to discover new things and express yourself in interesting ways.

For instance, I was substitute teaching in an art class when I looked at the waste basket.  Kids had thrown away aborted attempts at things, but the mat board they had done them on was still mostly good.  I had a free period and used up their discards in creative play.  That 45 minutes or so sent my art in a new direction for a while, and still turns up in my current work.  It was also just as possible that I would've made messes on stuff they'd already thrown away, but you don't know until you try.

I think a lot of us quit before we start because we don't know whether or not something will turn out.  Think back to kindergarten when you drew and colored and pasted without those kinds of worries.  It was fun.  You liked to do it.  When did you lose that sense of play?  Why?

I've been thinking of my 20s lately.  It was a period of time when I got down to the serious business of being an adult and left too many of my games behind.  I think of my boyfriend's sour looks when I was being silly and blame him for being a sourpuss -- but I also fault myself for buying into his control.  Lesson learned and not to be repeated.

Play is good.  It's necessary.  It makes everything in life worth experiencing.  I'm not convinced soccer is essential, but you get the idea.  Well, soccer isn't necessary to me, but if soccer is your fun, it's vital.

What's your favorite way to play?

Sunday, November 18, 2018

"Music"

Sometimes I wish I had a smaller yard.  I've been raking leaves in between bouts of snow.  It hasn't been enough snow to count, but enough to convince me that leaf raking can be put off for another day (like in April).  I listen to the swish, swish, swish of the rake through the leaves and think of this little story about snow in China by Jim Croce.

Anthony Arya recently sang Croce's "Operator" on the singing competition show "The Voice", which you can see here.  He's a cute boy, and he sang it well even though he didn't even know what an operator was and I just don't believe his heart has ever been broken.  Somehow the song isn't the same without the heartbreak.

Jim Croce is one of my favorite go to musicians when I'm feeling blue.  "Photographs and memories... all that I have are these to remember you."  At some point the longing and romanticism gets replaced by P!nk on youtube "You weren't there, you never were" and I quit feeling nostalgic and think about Chinese people sweeping snow.

Arya's heart will probably get broken eventually.  I'm not wishing it on him, but  I often think the best artists (and other professions) have interesting and/or painful back stories which create a need for these people to express or prove themselves.  I want a peaceful world, but I suspect it would be beige and boring.  Maybe I'm just looking for a point behind the world's miseries, but this explanation gives me peace so I'm sticking with it unless someone can give a better reason.

Use what you're given.  If your heart is broken, sing a song with tears and a crack in your voice.  It may seem less perfect, but the cracked song touches the hearts of the people who hear it, and it seems like that's the point of all art.  If you're young and innocent, sing innocent songs.  There's a song for every emotion in the rainbow, but the classics are classic because they speak to emotions.  There's comfort in knowing someone else understands how you're feeling.

I painted this portrait of Robert Smith as part of a larger assignment.  I'll admit I didn't even recognize his name at first.  I dutifully looked him up and liked his wild hair.  I'm sure I've listened to The Cure, I even suspect it's one of my ex's favorite bands, but I don't usually pay much attention to who is singing, just what they're singing...

"There was nothing in the world that I ever wanted more than to never feel the breaking apart all my pictures of you."

Hmm... I wonder if Robert and Jim Croce could've cried in their beers together and felt their common humanity?  Maybe they'd just like to talk about Chinese people sweeping snow?

I was going to end this by saying it was time to rake some leaves, but it's raining now.  Maybe I'll spend more time listening to music on youtube because April definitely seems like the best time for raking?

Saturday, November 10, 2018

"Castle"

You may find this difficult to believe, but I wasn't a well-behaved child in high school.  Well, I sort of behaved.  I got good grades and took care of my little brothers.  Never mind I did the bare minimum for the grades and made innumerable mistakes with my brothers.  The rest of my time was spent making mischief, often with brothers in tow.

This photo/art was a collaborative piece.  My girlfriend took the photo of me in the park while well-behaved children stared out windows in school.  I don't remember if we bothered to get permission for the outing or not.  Sometimes I forged a pass out of classes.  Sometimes I asked a naive art teacher to write us a pass.  I didn't even have that teacher.  I just saw her as an easy mark.  I told her about this many years later and she laughed.  She said if she could've written herself a pass out of class she would've.

My girlfriend and I showed up at school eventually and look, see, we did something productive!  Give us A's for being creative!  I never got in trouble for my rampant truancy.  I got caught once by the vice principal.  He looked up my records and said, "I've got kids with real problems.  Get out of here!"  Yippee.  See ya!

I'd like to say this was all for the good, but I was a bad influence on my brothers and some of my friends.  I have a little regret, not a lot, but some.  Mostly I was glad to get out.

The schools created my truancy problem in the first place.  I was too academically advanced for my grade, but not socially, so my early teachers often sent me out of class to amuse myself in the library or wherever.  Looking back, I can't imagine sending a little kid to the playground by herself, but at the time I mostly loved it.  I tagged along after the custodian and read books that kept me forever ahead of my class.  This set me up for a life-long pattern.  Leave me alone and I'll do my work, even excel at it.  The downside is a disregard for rules and the inability to work in a restrictive environment.  I also felt excluded, literally looking in windows from the outside.

That vice principal missed the fact I had real problems.  It's just nobody knew what to do about them, and I'm not whining about my excessive freedom.  I got to play in the castle.

I had a chance encounter with my first real boyfriend this week, and maybe seeing him has me living in this period of the past more vividly than I normally might.  We didn't talk, just smiled and said "Hi" to each other, but he looked great.  I've felt giggly about seeing him, the same kind of giggly as skipping school.  I hope he's having a great life.

I'm also thrilled with the results of the US election.  Thank you to everyone who voted and for all our international friends' prayers and best wishes!

Less fun, but important to me, Dr. Neil fixed my celery damaged tooth.  I don't love him like my old dentist, but he seems competent.  I'm not ready for a permanent commitment, but I'm thankful to the repair.  I think I'll stay away from celery in the future.

Squire's Castle in Cleveland Metroparks

Friday, November 2, 2018

"Vote"

I blame the upcoming US election for my emergency dentist appointment.  I've been gritting my teeth during the day and grinding them in my sleep at night, but the final culprit was chewing celery.  C'mon!  Celery?

I loved my dentist, but he retired this summer.  This left me with the painful task of finding someone new.  I've been asking everyone for recommendations.  I researched those recommendations.  In a way, it's a different kind of voting.  Some people care most about friendliness.  Others, cleanliness.  I don't want to befriend my dentist.  I want to assume any dentist's office is clean.  I care about honesty and quality.  We're building a very important, long-term relationship and I want it based on trust.

Dr. Neil has 16 hearts on the community page.  That's more hearts than anyone else.  I hope I'll be able to heart him too.  Sometimes the popular vote works out.  I'm hoping to get lucky with Dr. Neil, and that the Democrats get a lot of hearts on Tuesday.  Actually, I'm hoping the Democrats win everything.  I long for congressional oversight and more sense in government.

Not so long ago, a young person said I was talking "almost like a Republican!"  I laughed.  As I just wrote, I hope the Dems win everything on Tuesday.  At the same time, I don't think the Dems are always right.  They're just our best hope for actual oversight and responsibility at the moment, and they're the only party that is actually reflecting the views of the majority of the population.

I have a long-term hope that the responsible Republicans will create a viable third party which kicks out the racists, misogynists, climate change deniers, and lunatics.  Until then, I'm voting Democrat.  I hope you will too.  I can't afford the dental bill if you don't.

Enough about the election!  I needed a pic of myself for a bio in a magazine and copied it for my profile here.  I'm not convinced it looks like me enough.  I kept thinking it looks like Mary Poppins.  I've always had a soft spot for Julie Andrews, but never thought I looked like her before.  I traced my selfie to see what I was getting wrong and thought the tracing looked even less like me.  Oh well, better than my 4 year old photo?

Maybe none of us really comprehend what we actually look like?  One woman told me her nose was too pointy.  I thought she had a cute snub nose.  I could see what she was saying, sort of, if you caught her at just the right angle, but I don't think anyone but her would see it without her bemoaning it.  Even if they did, I think most would think her pretty.  I admire Rembrandt for being brave enough to see himself honestly and to paint himself as he aged.

There's a tiny self portrait in my latest painting, from back in the day when I was young and slim.  I actually made this dress out of black velvet although I'm not a seamstress.  I was even kicked out of home economics class.  Successfully sewing velvet made me pretty pleased with myself.  I wrote about wearing this dress once.  You can read about it here.

Sunday, October 28, 2018

"Witch"

I hummed to my plants while tending my garden and Bro2 said I was "witch compatible".  This was before I knew anything about Wiccans and I took offense.  Aside from Glinda the Good Witch, witches were ugly and evil.  I looked up Wiccans and decided I agreed with them about gardening.  In fact, they're probably better at it because they pay attention to moon phases though Dad paid attention to that too and I'm pretty sure he wasn't a witch.  He just studied the Farmer's Almanac.

As I'm wont to do, a little research ended up in quite of it before I decided I'm definitely not a witch, and I'm not going to be one.  Live and let live, let's talk about the healing properties of herbs.  Tip: lemon balm and fennel makes a great tea for a stuffed up head.

I'm not sure if I should be embarrassed or proud that I could probably win a Harry Potter trivia contest.  The books soothe me when life is stressful.  Children having adventures in a magic castle is a much better world than one with politically craziness and violence.  I think we'd be better off if our schools had herbology classes too.  Maybe without the biting plants.

The other day I thought about Professor McGonagall.  She's stern and can be forbidding, but she's also dependable and capable.  She got the rules bent for Harry to play quidditch in his first year, but docked him a tremendous amount of points through his school years.  We'd all be better off with a lot more McGonagalls.  Rules, consequences, encouragement, discipline, what more do you want from a teacher?

None of us wants to admit we want these qualities enforced upon us, but we do.  Life is easier when we know what's expected of us.  This is true between student to teacher, child to parent, employee to employer, and between friends and lovers.  Set the rules and stick to them.  If a rule is bent, have a good reason for it instead of just taking the easy path because the short-term easy path becomes the harder road in the long run.

I was with a woman and her young boys in a store.  The boys screamed bloody murder for toys they wanted.  The mom gave in.  I said she'd just guaranteed her boys would scream every time they were in a store.  It would be easier to just say no and stick to it.

This is, of course, much harder to practice in reality than in theory, especially since adults have more wiles than screaming toddlers.  I could give you many examples of times I failed at it miserably.  It's at the root of my failed relationships of different kinds.  I tell someone here's my boundary.  The person steps over the imaginary line.  I feel resentful.  The person looks for more boundaries to step over.  I enforce my boundaries while feeling more resentment until the inevitable explosion.  I bet Professor McGonagall never has to deal with these problems.

It's easier to blame trespassers of my boundaries than to look at my own failed defenses.  I can't do anything about other people, but I can study better methods.  Professor McGonagall is a good example even if she's a witch in a children's book.

Happy Halloween everybody!