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!

Friday, September 15, 2017

"Jazz"

This week's word instantly had me singing "Come on babe, why don't we paint the town?  And all that jazz."  I've been known to burst into musicals when circumstances require it.  There's a lyric for every human experience or weather condition.  "Oh, what a beautiful morning!"  "Soon it's gonna rain.  I can feel it."  I fondly remember sitting on a fence with Beth having a boisterous musicals sing-off while her future husband shook his head and laughed.  Hey, he knew what he was getting into.

I produced musicals and other entertainments at a community theater.  I hired directors, put in my 2¢ during auditions, sold advertising, begged donations, wrote PSAs, researched lighting and sound upgrades, maintained databases, corralled volunteers, and handed out drinks backstage.  That's just the surface tasks.  There were a lot more things to do.  I never wanted to be a producer, but I loved it.

Art is a poor career for anyone who likes big paychecks and steady employment, but it was the only career I wanted.  I've been laid off numerous times, and I've done whatever I had to do when I had to do it.  Sometimes I've been happily surprised that I liked the other jobs.  Some sucked and I sang "Working in the chain gang" (Jim Croce version).

This week, I watched a PBS show about Tyrus Wong, the artist behind "Bambi".  His influence was especially unusual since he was a Chinese immigrant, and the movie was released in 1942.  That was a hard time to be Chinese in America.

He was an awesome artist.  Think of all those beautiful backgrounds and emotional colors in Bambi.  He got screwed out of full credit for his work on the film.  He lost his job and picked asparagus to feed his family, which I have to imagine is right up there with my shoveling horse manure in unpleasantness.  Maybe worse?  At least I wasn't hunched over in a field all day every day in the blazing sun, but he didn't have to smell manure and listen to opera.  Tyrus got a job at another studio and set the visual tone for many famous movies.  He painted dishes.  He made kites.  He lived a very long and fulfilling life.

There comes a time when many of us find ourselves wondering why life is hard.  Why isn't it going the way I thought it would, or why don't I get the rewards I've earned?

Many notables through history had their own asparagus or manure periods.  Sometimes the side paths we take are unexpectedly fun like managing a theater.  Whatever we do, we take those experiences with us into our future adventures, and I think they make us better, stronger in the end.  At the very least, they can make us more humble and interesting.

I spent a stupid amount of time painting 3 large backgrounds yesterday.  At least, the plan was for them to be backgrounds.  I keep contemplating my choices.  I think I've been influenced by Tyrus Wong's less is more style and keep wondering if maybe I should let the paintings be what they are without embellishments?  I also considered putting a trumpet on one of them to fit "jazz" better, but that's just silly -- but no less silly that the paw print my puppy added at the bottom.

Friday, September 8, 2017

"Recipe"

I went to a farmer's market and bought an eggplant.  I don't like eggplant.  I couldn't resist its purple beauty, or maybe its sensuous texture?  I don't know.  All I knew was that I had an eggplant without a plan.  I dimly thought I could make an eggplant lasagna, which is a travesty of lasagna, but the best I could think of for an eggplant.

I ignored the eggplant while making a giant pot of potato/cauliflower soup.  This was too much soup for my freezer, so I spent time defrosting and reorganizing, contemplating a previous impulse purchase of squid.  I had gone to an Italian grocery store with an Italian.  Maybe I got swept up with her enthusiasm for cooking?  I plunked the squid into the sink to defrost with the vague thought that squid was somewhat like clams, so maybe it would work in the potato soup like clam chowder.

I cut squid rings and lightly sautéed them.  Mmm.  I don't like the way squid tentacles look, so I chopped them up into indistinguishable bits, then considered my counter full of tomatoes.  I got out the eggplant and considered... yep, sauce.  More chopping... onions, garlic, pepper... oregano and basil from the garden... OMG!  I made a wonderful, accidental thing out of food I don't really like.  My dog confirmed my assessment of this sauce.  She danced in ecstatic circles.

The end result is that I have a lot of healthy food, and I spent very little money.  The only part that took any real time was chopping, but somebody else could've used a food processor and have been done in no time.  While I chopped, I thought about young'uns who don't know how to cook.  They're forever dependent on restaurants and processed foods.  That's fattening, expensive, and vitamin-deficient.  They'll never taste calamari eggplant sauce -- which I know they think they don't want, but they're missing out.

I worry about the health of young people.  They don't seem to understand food at all.  They're obviously fatter than they should be.  Okay, I'm fatter than I should be too, but they're fat and malnourished.  Or, they're anorexic or bulimic and malnourished.  They're going to suffer unnecessarily and die too young without money in the bank.

Cooking doesn't have to be hard.  Yesterday, I put a little water in a pot, added Swiss chard, put on the lid, turned on the heat... 10 minutes later, food.  To tell the truth, I grazed on the chard before it was even cooked.  Whatever.  Swiss chard is good for you and really easy.  I have a couple of squashes.  Cut in half, scoop out seeds, bake until soft.  Add butter.  These will go in the freezer too for days that I don't feel like cooking.  I nuked an ear of corn in its husk.  Done.  More butter.

Eat real food.  Stop Monsanto from genetically modifying our food.  Buy local.  Buy what's in season.  Grow something.  Learn to cook.

BTW, I figured out why I've been especially plagued by wildlife this year.  My neighbor a couple doors down used to keep a big garden, but he didn't put one in this year.  I guess it's up to me to feed all the critters.  To make matters worse, my groundhog got a girlfriend.  She's the biggest groundhog I've ever seen, brimming with health, with a shimmering coat.  She eats vegetables.  My vegetables.  I'll admit I took time to admire her and even forgot to send her death rays for a few minutes.  My original groundhog looks at her with absolute adoration.  I dread the inevitable babies, who will also be terribly cute and glistening with (my) vegetable health.

Sunday, September 3, 2017

"Samurai"

There will be a lot of swords in response to "Samurai", so I thought I'd go with armor.  Self-defense is good, and Samurai armor is interesting.  It's light-weight, flexible, and ingeniously designed to baffle weapons.  It certainly beats the heavy steel cans European knights wore.  Japanese soldiers could even perform basic toilet functions without the help of a squire.

While making my samurai armor, I've been thinking about what to say about self-defense.  It's a touchy subject for me because I've been attacked in various ways throughout my life.  Discussing my armor feels like admitting vulnerabilities that I don't want to share.

Yet... being vulnerable is important to communicating.  I listened to a program the other day that talked about how people addicted to their smart phones are more anxious and depressed people than those who aren't glued to their devices.  Think about it, if all you're doing is reading about others' perfect lives and inspirational retweets, or if your sharing is limited to 140 characters, how much of yourself have you shared?  Why would someone care about you?  You haven't given them much to care about.

The same is true with creative expression.  Aren't you touched when a singer breaks down during a song because the lyrics touch something vital inside?  The singer's sobs might cause you to cry too.  The touching lyrics were written about the most moving or painful experiences.  It takes courage to share those feelings.  Whatever your medium, if you want to be great, you've got to be vulnerable.

When you're vulnerable, there will be people who will take that as a sign to attack.  Think of any person who is widely admired and you will find trolls in the margins.  It's a balancing act to be both open and protected.  You don't have to be a movie star to have malicious stalkers.  Maybe they won't shoot you dead as happened to John Lennon, or chase you to your death like Princess Diana, but they can still do their best to make you miserable.  Will others' malicious behaviors still your voice?

It's oft-said that you are unique.  No one else was born with exactly your talents, living in the same time and circumstances.  You have something to express in your own unique way.  Will you?

We have to look at the armor we've grown so accustomed to wearing.  Are we protecting ourselves from others, or are we protecting ourselves from ourselves?  Are we brave enough to let others see what we have inside?  Can we face our own fears?

It seems to me the ideal way to live is akin to samurai armor.  Light-weight and comfortable, it served its purpose without limiting movement.  In other words, you don't have to let all of your vulnerabilities go unprotected.  Have armor, but have armor that lets your light shine through.

Friday, August 25, 2017

"Shoes"

When I was a teenager, I put thumbtacks in the soles of my shoes.  When bored in class, I'd quietly tap dance under my desk.  How many classmates did I irritate?  My tapping started as an accident; I stepped on a thumbtack.  I felt like Quasimodo unevenly tapping down the school hall, so I added a thumbtack to the other shoe.  How many silly things are forever trapped in my brain?  Sometimes it seems endless.

A cicada was loudly advertising his romantic desires the other night.  He was so loud I thought he'd gotten into my bedroom, but no, he was outside.  He must've gotten lucky because he eventually shut up, and I fell asleep.  The next day, I found cicada shells all over my few remaining tomato plants.  I used to wear them as jewelry when I was a little kid.  Now, I feel all ew, ew, ew about touching them, and I thought something's wrong about that.  It's just an empty shell.  So what if it has too many legs?  Who taught me to be creeped out by legs?


I sat down and drew cicada studies.  Once I started looking at them, they're really rather interesting.  They have claw feet and bristles all over their legs, which is why they're so easy to wear as jewelry.  They have ugly faces if you look too closely, but their googly eyes are rather cute.  I simply don't understand how a giant insect can squash itself into such a small, hard shell.  I especially don't understand how it could extract it's antennae from that shell.
I'm procrastinating.  I told you in March that I started a book.  Now it's pretty much written, and I need a spectacular letter which will inspire a publisher to publish it.  I swear, writing the book was easier than writing the letter.

I gave the book to a friend and asked for feedback.  She admitted she wasn't psyched to read it.  For some mysterious reason the topic of Catholicism didn't appeal to her.  There's no accounting for taste.  I drove to New York and actually plugged it into the computer for her (which sounds more impressive than it was since I can get to her house in 2 hours, and it's very pleasant to spend time with her at Lake Chautauqua).

She called this morning to chastise me for keeping her up all night because she couldn't put the book down.  (Yay!!!)  She almost called at 1:30 a.m. because she was "laughing my ass off!"  I don't know if this was actually my goal, but sure, I'll take humorous.  It beats pedantic and dull at any rate.  She gave me more words to put in my letter to the publishers: easy to read, informative, inspirational, scathing, appalling, shocking, mind-blowing, laugh out loud hysterical, disturbing...  I wish she'd write my letter for me.

I'm going to try to get a conventional publisher (let me know if you have any contacts!), but I'll self-publish if that doesn't work out.  Stay tuned and keep your fingers crossed!

I suppose I'll have to get back to trying to writing my letter, but now I'm daydreaming about a cicada tap dancing amongst the tomatoes.
Purple beans that turn green when cooked.  The groundhog took this to the ground multiple times.  The only thing that saved it was letting the weeds grow taller than the beans.
Swiss Chard -- the groundhog ate this to the ground many times too so I'm happy to have actual leaves

Spaghetti Squash

Found a living example.  He posed very nicely for me.
You've gotta admit he's kind of cute in his cicada kind of way :)

Friday, August 18, 2017

"Mail"

My great grandfather, Thomas Lafayette Lee, was a mail carrier in the days before cars, and a genealogist before libraries, almost in the days of pounding papyrus on the river bank -- well maybe not that far back.  He was born shortly after the American Civil War on June 9, 1870.  His name tells you something about him; Lafayette for the French aristocrat and military officer who aided the US in the Revolutionary War, and Lee... well, that side of the family has been getting some news in the press lately.

"Cousin" Robert E. Lee was intelligent and heroic, Lincoln's first choice to lead the US military when the Civil War started.  Lee inherited slaves from his wife's father, with instructions to free them within five years.  Lee wrote his son, " He has left me an unpleasant legacy".  Lee had runaways chased and whipped, but he did free them. He was a mixed bag of good and not.  I could say similar about my living relatives.  Maybe they should display the statues of him somewhere to explain the Civil War and how prejudice can end up killing millions of people?  That seems current.

The ultimate choice about the statues belongs to the people who still suffer from the legacy of slavery.  I understand there are Southerners who feel they're still suffering too.  My family lost status and money from being on the wrong side of history, and the South remains comparatively poor with lesser schools and health care.  I get it that there are people who hang their regional pride on the valiant fight Lee led when faced with fewer soldiers and less ammunition.  Hanging onto that isn't getting you anywhere.  Even Lee saw that and surrendered at Appomattox.

When my great grandpa was living in post-Civil War poverty, he got a job.  He wrote a family history, and included a description of his days as a mail carrier, earning $702 per year in 1905.  I'd like to share his story.  This is longer than I usually post, but I thought you might find it interesting too.  Imagine it in a heavy Tennessee accent...

I have had many experiences on my route.  Some were pleasant and some were not so good.  I had a fine bunch of patrons... although some were tough characters...  especially... in the mountain section.  However, some... were as fine a bunch of people as could be found anywhere... I liked them all...

I have been in some hard storms.  One time I had to run my horse to get out from under a falling tree.  One day the lightning struck eighteen times near my route.  I came very near being in one of the worst hail storms this country has ever known.  I just did get into a barn before it struck.  Much of the hail was as large as hen and goose eggs.  These sank into the ground as they fell.  Some went crashing through iron roofing.  There was one cyclone that passed over my route...  I was in the edge of another which did lots of damage to property, but no one was hurt.  I have been caught in rising streams of water, as the rocks were rolling under my horse's feet, and almost knocking them down.  I had to stay in one stream of water for almost half a mile in order to ford it...

One day I heard the sound of a run-away team approaching over a hill, while I was going up the grade on the other side in my buggy.  On they came in their mad rush to get away... and the only thing for me to do was to jump from my buggy without delay.  As they neared me my horse became frightened, and turned back.  Down the road he went, ahead of the run-away team, carrying all my mail, stamps, money and everything, with only myself left behind, and truly glad to be there.  My buggy was torn to pieces.  Most of the harness was torn from the horse.  My mail, money and everything was scattered, a piece here and a piece there.  With the assistance of some of my good patrons, we managed to collect all together... Another loaned me a saddle to ride back on, while others recovered the pieces of my buggy and brought it back...

My buggy was struck twice by cars... but fortunately with no serious results.  I have been thrown from my horse by his falling on me.  One time I was thrown clear over his head, landing in front of him.  Such was life on a rural route in the early days... At first our roads were bad... I rode horseback a big part of eighteen years... I have walked many miles with my mail satchel thrown over my shoulder through mud, sleet, snow and ice, over fields, and just any way to get there...

I loved my patrons and I miss the pleasant association with them.  Scarcely a day passes that my mind doesn't go back to the fond memories of meeting with them at the mail boxes, and our having a few pleasant words together.  Especially is this true of the children, all of whom I loved dearly.

I'm glad Great Grandpa got through his hard times with love in his heart.  You can't move forward when you're clutching the memory of mythological glory days and hate to your chest.

BTW, I've given up my rants about wildlife.  The deer ate all the pears.  They're gone.  That's it.  I'm done screaming like a crazy woman (this year), or at least I thought so until I saw they ate my tomato plants too.

Also, in case I wasn't clear enough about what I think about the KKK and Neo-Nazis, I'll let Trae Crowder express his point of view.  Caution, very coarse language.

Friday, August 11, 2017

"Pizza"

A crazy woman was in my back yard yesterday, sputtering incoherent obscenities while chucking wood at a majestic stag placidly chewing on a pear tree -- not just the precious fruit, he was literally eating the tree, leaves, branches, and all.  Since that crazy woman never got to play on an organized baseball team, the serene majesty of the buck was barely disturbed by flying firewood, but he eventually looked up with a puzzled expression.

The crazy woman did some frantic arm waving, her obscenities became somewhat more defined.  The buck did a deer equivalent of a shoulder shrug and moved over a couple of feet.  It took quite a few more threats and wood to get the deer to daintily hop over the fence where he clearly waited for the crazy woman to go away so he could resume his feast.  Wood got chucked into the neighbor's yard, and the aim started to get somewhat more accurate, by which I mean that the logs passed at least within 10' of the blasted animal's aura before he gave up and went away.  "Take your damned ticks with you!"

My dog stood at the edge of the deck with a look of concern.  I mean really, who wants a crazy woman in their yard?  It's a good thing she doesn't have opposable thumbs to call 911 for the people with straightjackets.

I smashed a carpenter ant with my fist and glared at the groundhog.  At least the groundhog had the grace to scamper when I threw a rock in his general vicinity.  Unlike the insane woman chucking firewood, I can throw rocks.  Anybody who has lived by a river can throw a rock.  However, the groundhog didn't run away, it ran under my back porch where he's created a den for himself.  I'm pretty sure it has an entertainment center with surround sound leaching off my electricity.

Then, the neighbor dogs set off the skunk.  The crazy woman burst into new profanity as she ran around the house slamming windows shut.  It took a while to get the crazy woman out of the house.  She futilely slapped at miniature flies in the kitchen.

The wildlife is winning.  I need to import a pack of wolves or maybe a mountain lion.

That was yesterday.  Today was a new day, and I decided to walk to the library.  The weather was iffy, but I felt like taking the 1+ mile walk.  I left my puppy at home because she maxes out at 1 mile lately.  I wore my hat because even though it was 85% overcast, my pasty white sensitive complexion can get sunburned even at night.

Sure enough, the sun broke out on my way to the library.  It was hot and muggy, really, a terrible day for a midday walk.  I got my book, then noticed the sky was very dark.  My hat felt really stupid about then.  The rain started in fat blobs, and then it got serious.  Cascading sheets of needle-sharp drops came down in a 45° torrent, water sloshed over the tops of my shoes, my heavy jeans got sopping wet.  I felt glad for the hat since I wasn't getting pelted in the face.

I started smiling.  I did the obligatory head bob as I passed a miserable, hatless man sloshing in the opposite direction, his leather business notebook soaked with water.  I started laughing.  I smiled and laughed the rest of the way home.  It isn't just the wildlife that's against me, it's all of nature, but it felt great.  Absolutely fantastic.

I actually had to pour the water out of my shoes when I got home.  Money that had been in my pocket is hung up to dry.  Maybe I'll use it to buy a pizza?  Preferably a pizza with venison sausage and groundhog pepperoni on top.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

"Hair"

I went out for drinks with two friends.  One has fluffy hair like Rhea Perlman on Cheers, but she has regular chemical appointments to straighten it.  The other friend has bouncy curls like Shirley Temple.  She straightens her hair with electrical appliances.  My hair is straight.  I often curl it even though the curls fall out in no time.  Nobody else cares very much about our efforts despite the considerable time we've devoted to washing, drying, fluffing, curling, straightening, spritzing, gelling...

I'd pretty much neglected to get a haircut for the last few years and decided it was time for a change and cut it short.  I got into my closet of chemicals and played with colors.  I wasn't making a fashion statement.  I was just playing.  The joy is that it now my hair takes absolutely no effort whatsoever.

I met a group of people at a casual restaurant.  A woman came in, and even before seating herself, loudly asked, "Is that a menopausal haircut or just a summer cut?!"  I resisted asking in return, "WTF is wrong with you??"  I feel like I should point out that my group is mostly men, but it doesn't matter.  A slam between just us girls is still a slam.  Later, she commented we're near the same age.  We aren't.  She's much older, but she often says that even though she's been corrected many times.  I realize her actions are that of an 8th grade bully, but part of me feels like laughing because her effort to make me feel bad is a sign she thinks the haircut looks good.

I met a couple of friends for dinner, and one of them didn't even notice my haircut.  I guess she's seen it short before, but I'm choosing to think she's focused more on my interior than my exterior.  She's a keeper.

The thing is, nobody really cares that much about what you look like.  Although quite a few people have told me that they really like my hair short, I'm absolutely certain that none of them are spending a whole lot of time thinking about it.  Well, maybe people stuck in the 8th grade mentality, but I didn't even care about those opinions when I was in 8th grade.

I'm not so sure I'll keep my hair short, and I'm not so sure about the color either, but I love how easy it is.  I didn't even comb it to take a picture, just running my fingers through it.  That feels great.  I added some blue and feel like a mallard duck with a streak of teal in my feathers (even if it didn't show up very well in the photo).  I'm torn between adding more colors or just dying it all dark the way it grows naturally -- except white seems to be coming in naturally too, and I'm not ready for that yet.  Maybe it is a menopausal haircut?

The thing is, make your own style.  Express yourself in every medium, whether that's hair, work, hobbies...  Whatever floats your boat, bring it into your life and share it with others.  Don't let the criticism or peer pressure of 8th graders steal your happiness.

Fuchsia.  Yeah, I think I'm feeling fuchsia... I'll be a duck on a flower, or maybe a butterfly :)