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

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Friday, February 22, 2019

"Fairy Tale"

Dad bought a very old edition of Grimm's Fairy Tales when I was small.  He was very pleased to have acquired it and dramatically read it to us little people.  He excelled at that kind of thing.  He made up different voices for the different characters and held all of us in thrall.

The first story he read to us was Cinderella.  That sounds nice, doesn't it?  Friendly little creatures helping our heroine with housework, handsome prince, happily ever after.  You haven't read Grimm if you think that's the story.  No, Cinderella is an abused child whose sisters chop up their feet to get them into that glass slipper.  Birds peck out eyes... "That's enough for tonight.  I'll tell you another story tomorrow."  We were packed off to bed.

I went to sleep like I always did, and then the screaming started.  I had horrible, horrible, bloody nightmares.  Bloody feet everywhere.

Dad read another story the next night.  More child abuse and death threats.  In fact, let's decapitate a child.  "Bedtime!"  More screaming in the night.

I think you can see how this was all going.  Dad quit reading stories from his treasured book.  The screaming nightmares continued.  Dad tried reading nicer stories in the evenings.  He sang soothing songs just before bedtime.  Nothing worked.  I screamed in my sleep for two weeks.

It was fall then, and it was before anyone was concerned about carbon emissions from burning leaves.  I helped Dad rake and burn while he lectured me about how I couldn't let my whole life fall apart because of fairy tales.  I needed to get some sleep, and everyone else in the house needed sleep too.  They were just stories.  Part of growing up was knowing the difference between real life and fiction.

I burst into tears.  I sobbed as I told him I tried to have nice dreams.  I wasn't "trying to get attention" like Mom thought.  I went into the fetal position in a pile of raked leaves and couldn't stop crying while Dad stood over and looked at me.

He made a loud huff and stomped into the house.  I continued to cry.  He came back with his treasured volume and we put it in the leaf fire together.  No more fairy tale nightmares.  Everybody in my house agreed; it was the best book burning ever.

For better fairy tales...
Faeries by Froud, Brian and Alan Lee

Friday, February 15, 2019


When I was about 5 or 6 I wondered about electricity.  There were outlets around the house and I didn't understand the magic behind them.  I literally mean behind them because obviously something mysterious was going on behind the wall I couldn't see.  The outlets provided an inlet into hidden magic, but I had a sense that there was something dangerous about it.  This was a very vague danger to me other than I felt pretty certain I'd get in trouble if I stuck something into the outlet hole.

Bro1 happened to come by while I was contemplating this mystery, providing an opportunity.  While I might get in trouble for playing with the outlet, Bro1 never got in trouble for anything.  "C'mere!  Let's see what happens when you stick this darning needle in that hole!"  No sooner than the thought was expressed he committed the deed -- and got blown across the room.  Cool.  It still didn't explain electricity, but at least it gave a definition of "danger".  And yes, I got in trouble even though I wasn't the one who stuck the needle in.  My parents didn't appreciate the technicalities of the offense.

I don't think Bro1 was all that harmed by the experience, but you never know.  It might explain some things?  Besides, he was perfectly able to come up with his own ill-conceived ideas.  Even so, I feel a little regret.  Not too much, but a little.

Come to think of it, I think Sis2 planted the idea in my mind.  Seems to me she should've been the one to get in trouble for instigating, and to carry the regret too.  Where's the justice?!

Ah yes, childhood, where curiosity is discouraged outside of the approved limitations.  It's like another time when I improved our shampoo.  Mom bought 2 kinds, both in economy sizes.  Dandruff shampoo and the other kind.  I figured it would be better to mix both kinds together to eliminate dandruff for everybody.  The clear brown shampoo turned a murky sludge color while the dandruff shampoo looked kind of moldy pea soup.

Mom flipped out so I wasn't going to admit I did it.  Punishments for everybody.  I didn't feel guilty though since my siblings often caused unmerited punishments for me too.  If anything, I thought I should've been rewarded for improving shampoo.  Mom was clearly stifling my creativity and scientific curiosity, but I'm starting to think that it's just as well that I wasn't interested in electronics.  I might've burned down the house or at least destroyed some things -- which is now reminding me of my fascination with matches.  Yeah, just as well I didn't play with electric things anymore... though now I'm remembering getting into the back of the TV and messing with the tubes...

In current events, I made lime meringue pies this week.  The recipe seemed simple.  I was deceived.  It was a mess.  I made it harder by whisking the egg whites by hand and learned you a very big bowl to whisk eggs.  It also took about 20 minutes of arm-numbing whisking.  Cooking the egg yolk mixture required more whisking.  I think my favorite electronic thing this week is an electric blender.

I shared pie with Bro2 and we agree, pie is delicious.  Meringue is spectacular, and not to be confused with white foam at a restaurant.  My strenuous whisking made floating clouds of delicate pleasure.  Mmmm!!!

Friday, February 8, 2019

"Fire" reminds me of working for Burning River Web, a now defunct web design company.  I designed a logo and website for them as well as designing multiple web sites for potential clients on spec.  For those of you who don't know, that's speculation potential customers will like the work and agree to pay for it.  In other words, I took all the risks and the business would make a tidy percentage of the profits if my efforts worked out.

I was willing to take risks because I was between jobs and wanted solid web experience for my portfolio.  I sucked it up and did my best until it became too much.  I finally said just pay me for the work I did for the company (not the spec work for clients) and let's call it quits.  He refused.  I sent him a tersely stated email and he responded...

"You have some nerve calling my ethics into question while having executed a poison apple strategy..."

?!  All I said was that I wanted paid for the non-spec work.  When did I agree to be exploited?  I could've pursued the money legally, but I gave up.  It just wasn't worth it, and there were extenuating circumstances causing me to back off, but it galls me that there are people who think they can get work for free.  Well, he did get it for free so I guess he was right.  The only justice I got was when his lawyers told him to quit using the logo and website.  That didn't do me any good though.

I could tell you of many more times when people tried to rip me off, and spec work isn't the only tactic.  The first and best thing to do to prevent this is to sign a contract before doing anything, allowing for the unexpected.  For example, I used to design logos but could get swamped with endless revisions.  I wrote a contract promising 3 initial layouts and final art.  Revisions would be billed at $__/per hour, payable on delivery.  Simple.  Everybody knows what they're getting.  Which of course didn't stop some people from trying to rip me off, but I got paid or they didn't get the work.

Creative people are often exploited.  We want the joy of creating, the pleasure of seeing our work in print.  How much can we pay you for the opportunity?  Cut that out!  You can do something your customer can't.  That has value and you deserve to be paid.  There's no glory in being a starving artist -- unless you're dead, and then who profits?  I wish I knew how to get creatives to unionize.

Creatives are also too often optimists.  We think we'll get the project done in 4 hours when it will really take a week.  We undercut ourselves when we think about how much we should bill per hour.  We're afraid we'll lose the work if we charge too much.  Maybe you will, but maybe you'll get paid fairly and develop a good relationship with a continuing customer.

If you call a plumber there wouldn't be any talk of spec work.  You'll probably get a bill just for the house call to get a quote on the actual work.  You won't bargain the plumber's $50 or $100 per hour rate.  You just want your pipes to work.  I really should've gone into plumbing.  Let's all start thinking like plumbers.

When I started this post I intended to show my work for Burning River, but thinking about that still makes me burn.  The box above was a happier project I made for Mrs. Fields.

If you're wondering about burning rivers, the web company's name was inspired by the Cuyahoga River which winds through Cleveland, Ohio and famously caught fire a number of times.  These fires were caused by wide-spread chemical dumping by businesses.  The fires inspired the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), an important government agency that has been under attack by the current US president who is well-known for stiffing contractors.

Friday, February 1, 2019


I laughed at dinner with a friend this week while recounting a trip I took to New York City.  I went on that trip with a coworker who told everyone at work about the "New York Linda".  I smiled and quietly went to my cubicle.  "There's a NY Linda?" another coworker asked incredulously.  I smirked behind the cubicle wall as I listened to my travel mate recount the tales of my exploits.

There was the marriage proposal from my Turkish taxi driver, the girl I adopted at the Broadway theater who ended up in the show, the fascinating conversation I had with the owner of Diebold, not to mention the even more fascinating conversation I had with the conservator of the Metropolitan Art Museum.  I got an entire bar singing show tunes in the middle of the day.  I had a blast throughout that trip.

I talked with anyone and everyone while I was in New York.  It made my coworker crazy, which is funny in itself since I'm the introvert and she's the one who usually charms people.  My coworkers had a hard time believing the tales because I barely interacted with people in that toxic environment.  I just put my head down and worked.

Conversation is becoming a lost art.  My cab driver didn't propose right away.  It was after I asked him about where he came from, what it was like, identified with him about spending time in the woods.  He told me about his mother and about being Muslim.  I listened and learned.  He shared, I shared.  We explored our similarities instead of our differences.  It was a long cab ride, but not quite long enough.

When I met the Diebold owner, I asked about his business.  He didn't seem enthused about it, or maybe he was just tired from a week of boring meetings.  I asked why he didn't retire?  He must have plenty of money to do other things he'd rather do.  He told me about his grandfather, or maybe his great-great-grandfather who made cash registers.  He lit up like a Christmas tree when he was talking about that, and I was enthused by his enthusiasm.  Who knew I'd be interested in cash registers and safes?

The art curator was my seatmate on the plane home -- which was parked on the runway for hours.  They were some of the shortest hours I've ever known.  I didn't have to search for a conversation topic with her.  Art?!!  Yay!  Tell me everything you know!!!

Maybe the greatest key to conversation is being open and curious?  Everyone has something to say, and we can learn something from them, even if when we don't agree with some of them.  I don't plan on converting to Islam to actually marry my cab driver, but my world view is greater and better for learning about it.  I think of the Diebold guy whenever I use an ATM.  There's a person behind the machine.

There's something incredibly freeing about flying somewhere where nobody knows me and I'm not expected to play the roles people have become accustomed to having me fill -- though there are precious people who completely understand my love of show tunes and aren't surprised I can get a bar full of mid-week businessmen to sing them with me...

"I gotta fly once, I gotta try once, only can die once, right, sir?
... Don't bring around a cloud to rain on my parade."
Don't Rain on My Parade, Bob Merril/Jule Styne

Sunday, January 27, 2019


I sat on a mountain and looked at the galaxy.  I found infinite space infinitely overwhelming.  I think many people see their belongings this way.  My solution to the vastness of space was to feel the earth beneath me and to focus on the rock at my feet.  Organizing is like that.  Sorting and filing one item or topic at a time creates structure and reason in a chaotic world.  It calms me.

I was once told to add "organized" to my resume.  I said everyone says that.  "No, most people aren't organized and don't say they are."  I frankly didn't believe this but I've come to understand it's true.  Innumerable books are written on the topic, though I can't agree with Marie Kondo's advice to "Discard everything that does not 'spark joy'."  Crazy woman.  Belongings are more complicated than that.

I recently house-sat for a friend.  Before leaving, she suggested I amuse myself by organizing one of her bedrooms.  I know, this doesn't sound like much fun for most of you, and you didn't even see the amount of clutter she'd managed to stuff into the room.  It took me 2 days to get to the closet, and when I opened that closet things flew out of it and smacked me in the head.  I laughed and dug into my project.

About halfway through my friend's trip, I got grumpy.  I was tired from amassing large piles all over her otherwise beautifully decorated house, and also realized she wouldn't maintain the order I created.  It felt like a waste of time, but I was committed by then.  I trudged on repeating the mantra, "A place for everything and everything in its place".

My friend clearly wants to be organized.  She has piles of new photo albums and frames, folders, containers, and organizing books -- which takes up as much space as the stuff she wants to store.  Her issues are shared by many people.  I wonder how many people are like myself who feel compelled to organize things?

I love my personal library of alphabetized books which are sorted by subject, yet I'm aware most people aren't looking for this kind of bliss.  They just need to get their books onto bookshelves.  They close the door to the crowded bedroom while my skin itches at the thought of the hidden chaos.  I need to work on that.

This self-awareness reminds me of a time when a different friend and I shot photos of monarch butterflies resting after flying over Lake Erie in their annual migration.  Each of my photos was a single butterfly, aiming for perfection in the details.  My friend did landscapes of butterflies.  It hadn't occurred to me to see the world as she had.  I opened my eyes to seeing the world differently after that.

It takes all types.  My disorganized friend loosens me up.  I create order for her.  I think the ideal is somewhere in the middle?  I feel great satisfaction in the fact you can dance in that formerly packed bedroom.  She's thrilled.  I added "organized" to my resume.

"To put everything in balance is good, to put everything in harmony is better." ~ Victor Hugo

Saturday, January 19, 2019


My winter botanical effort has been growing herbs in the window.  I’m feeling pleased to have accomplished this because these herbs had a rough start.  They were leftovers from my volunteer gig where I give away produce.  The food we give is often close to expiration date so the herbs were a little tired to begin with.  On top of that, they’d been outside for hours in the freezing cold.  I decided to root them in water even though they looked pretty sad, and despite the odds, the herbs are thriving.  They make me happy when I see the snow outside.  Sometimes I brush the mint or rosemary with my hand for the cheerful scent.

I’ve discovered the majority of people who get free food from my volunteer gig don’t know what to do with herbs.  I find this rather befuddling since food without herbs can be dull, or at least I think it’s dull.  Put basil on a pizza and the pizza is better.  Make pesto and put it on pasta. Make tea with mint.  The list of ideas is only limited by imagination.

When I was a kid, I wanted to branch out from recipes, but I didn’t know how.  I opened all the herb and spice jars and smelled them.  Tasting the spices didn’t really give me a good idea of their qualities, but the aroma was very telling.  I experimented until I found the combinations I liked best.

For example, I made a couple of apple cakes the other day.  This was also courtesy of the food giveaway leftovers because there were some sad looking apples left in the box.  I made one cake for a friend who appreciates apple cake.  His cake had the proscribed amount of cinnamon and no other spices since I don’t know his feelings about experimentation.  For my own cake, I added ginger and cumin.  I think it’s yummy.

We had a lot of people at our last food giveaway even though it was really, really cold outside.  I don’t know if this has anything to do with the US government shutdown or the usual poverty.  Keep in mind we give the food away in a middle class area.  The poverty is invisible around here, but it still exists.  It warmed my heart when many people went out of their way to say how much they appreciate our efforts.  It’s nice of them to say so.  It makes me feel happy about freezing in a parking lot.

I looked for a long time for a volunteer effort that I felt drawn to helping.  Handing out vegetables makes me happy.  I’m happy talking about cooking.  I’m happy to talk with friendly volunteers and food recipients.  I figure I’m getting quite a few positives out of the experience so it feels kind of too much to also get thanked for my own happiness.  It’s an abundance of riches and I get to take home free food too.  Even freezing outside feels like a positive.  I’m getting exercise and burning calories.

At the same time, I’m concerned there are so many hungry people.  It shouldn’t be that way.  If some of these people are hungry because of the government shutdown, that’s even worse.  Trump needs to forget about his wall and deal with his legal nightmares instead.  Good people are hurting.

Smile at someone today.  It will make both of you happier!

Saturday, January 12, 2019


People spend too much time in fantasy worlds where good and evil are clearly defined.  Fake sword fights on computer screens won't save the world.  Life isn't like that.  The knight on the white horse isn't coming to save you.  You have to save yourself.  Make your own life.

Sometimes I think I'm too stern about these things?  I've been disappointed too many times at the non-appearance of the white knight, and yet, some part of me still hopes Disney movies can be made real where good is rewarded, evil is defeated, mice do housework, and deer and bunnies play together in a meadow full of flowers.

Maybe I'm stern because I've been the boss?  Check your personal accounts after you've done your duties.  We've got deadlines.  Hop to it!  (Yeah, that doesn't work.)  Maybe I'm feeling stern because I don't have a boss telling me to hop to it?  I absolutely check my personal accounts before digging into work projects.

This Xandaria image is something I did for Mensa's membership renewal campaign.  It wasn't my concept but I like the idea of imagining yourself conquering the Netherrealm while stuck in the office.  I think my I Spy paintings are messing with my illustration efficiency though.  I got entirely too caught up making office things.  Who cares about the briefcase under the desk?!

Messing with details is my own problem except there are 2 more illustrations to do for this campaign and they have to be in the same style.  Oops.  Next time I'm going to do something simple and graphic.

I guess all of this plays into why I try to be vigilant about fantasy and time wasting.  I'm guilty of it.  The other night I wasted time watching stupid TV and thought about the masters of the past who had to get their work done while the sun was shining.  People who had to paint their fruit before it rotted instead of looking up reference online.  People who read books by candlelight because that's the only thing to do for entertainment in the evening besides darning socks.

As I continued to waste time, I got a mental pictures of French artists drinking coffee at cafes and drinking absinthe at the Folies Bergere.  Slackers!  Or, maybe all that slacking is important to the creative process?  Or plain justification?  Whatever.  If they had the internet they'd use it too.

I have all sorts of other thoughts about heroes, most of them heavy and critical.  My first effort at this post was about people living in Nazi Germany.  My second effort was self-flagellation about the times I was a hero and risked significant injury.  Sometimes I don't want to live inside my own brain, and I don't need to spread that around.

We need entertainment and escape.  Someone should remind me of that next time I'm lecturing about time wasting.  I'm not the boss anymore.  Do whatever makes you happy :)