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, December 31, 2010


I've been posting something on my blog every week since last February. So not quite a year, but that has to count as holding up one of my resolutions. I decided to look back and see what I've done in the last year and pat myself on the head.

I'm not much for making New Year's resolutions. It seems like a false set up, and less likely to succeed than a determination I make at a random time of the year... but...? My friend Geof had to quit smoking because of his health problems, and that reminds me of the dangers of sucking nicotine -- something I've done myself for a very long time. I'm starting to feel the effects of it, and have been thinking about quitting, even before Geof had to go to the hospital. I had nonsmoking company this week and slapped a nicotine patch on my arm so I could be pleasant through the visit. Who knew? The things actually work. Now all I have to do is figure out how to make my brain work too.

The problem is nicotine patches can't eliminate my need to be contrary, self-destructive, or infantile about my addiction. I like smoking. I also like blintzes, ice cream, Pepsi, and who knows what else that isn't good for me. Obviously my oral fixation is my mother's fault for weaning me too young. Okay, Freud identified the problem, but did he have an effective solution for it?

Nonsmokers, and that's almost everybody else these days, often don't realize logic and lectures are ineffective methods of encouraging better behavior. If the source of the problem is neglect and criticism, lectures just reinforce the original issue. We all know smoking is a health risk. It says so right on the side of the pack. Lots of people will resolve to quit smoking tomorrow. Tell them you love them, then back away slowly as they nurse their hangovers and withdrawal. Or, keep them so distracted they don't have time to reach for old habits.

This drawing is old. I've kept it as my own internal nagging on the issue. Maybe, just maybe this time I'm ready to let go?

Friday, December 24, 2010


"Winter" brings up thoughts of quiet contemplation, poetry, snuggling my puppy by the fire -- but tomorrow is Christmas, and it's hard to ignore the thought that my day will be noisy and happy as I spend the day with friends and adopted family. (Thanks Mary Lou!) My kin are scattered to the winds this year, and I don't mind as long as they are finding happiness and laughter too.

This has been a hard year for me in some ways, but it's also been a year of rediscovering old friends, making new friends, and I'm grateful for it. To everyone, wishing you a very merry Christmas and a happy new year!!!

Please remember my friends Korki and Geof in your prayers. Geof started chemotherapy this week for liver cancer after resting from an aortic valve replacement. I would like to be able to list my gratitude for his recovery next year at this time. Thanks!

Friday, December 17, 2010


I watched "The People Speak" yesterday. Now I feel a need to foment rebellion and civil unrest. The movie is collage of famous people reading or singing from Howard Zinn's People's History of the United States, a book written from the point of view of real people instead of the politicians.

Never mind that I don't actually know which cause to foment rebellion about. I'm having trouble just convincing people to buy toilet paper made from recycled paper to save old growth forests. Bigger issues like fixing the economy and stopping domestic violence or wars are all important, but I don't know how to make a difference. I was a child when hippies were marching against the Viet Nam war and burning bras and flags, but nobody seems like marching any more.

Maybe an old-fashioned mail campaign is the way to go? My Aunt Hazel used to write lots of letters against pig farms, cutting down pine trees, or whatever else she was irate about at the time. I admired her energy. Too bad she isn't around to harass politicians any more.

I think most of us want to make a difference. We want to be good, and right, and courageous. We want to believe that right wins in the end, the bad are punished, and some day everything will be right in the world. Maybe what we want most is to feel empowered?

So, in the spirit of whatever holiday you choose to celebrate at this time of year, here are some inspirational quotes for us to consider...

How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world. ~ Anne Frank

Act as if what you do makes a difference. It does. ~ William James

Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope... and crossing each other form a million different centers of energy and daring those ripples build a current that can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance. ~ Robert F. Kennedy

You must be the change you wish to see in the world. ~ Mahatma Ghandi

If you think you are too small to be effective, you have never been in bed with a mosquito. ~ Betty Reese

Friday, December 10, 2010


The eye doctor made me look at bright lights with dilated eyes today, and I'm trying very hard not to think of the phenomenon of lights = misery for me. He was quite unhelpful about my recent migraines. He said my eyes are healthy, and I should have someone check out my brain. Go ahead and laugh! I chuckled too.

Since I have bug eyes today, I'm going with the simplest answer for "phenomenon"
since I've already been working on this piece for another purpose. Snowflakes are magical and wonderful, and I love putting them together. Sometimes I like to cut them out of paper like we all did as children -- well, all of us snow-bound children. I like the surprise of how the opened piece of paper will turn out. These snowflakes all started out as little doodles like the one shown at left.

I shoveled my driveway for the first time of the year today. My guess is I'll have plenty to say about snow in the upcoming months, and since I wrote a lot last week, I'm taking my dilated eyes to a quiet corner and letting the world go by for now.

BTW, no matter what size I make the original, this blog wants to make it small. If I enlarge it in the layout mode, it looks fuzzy. Clicking on it takes it to another page which looks cleaner. Anyone know a way around this?

Thursday, December 2, 2010


I did this art for Mrs. Fields' cookies. You can buy it here (24-ct Tin, 12-ct Tin, or Gift Box), though I don't get anything other than personal satisfaction when someone appreciates my art. Maybe I should consider licensing and royalties? Mrs. Fields makes good cookies, so it's a win/win for you especially since the tins are on sale.

Do reindeers fall under "prehistoric"? Yes, definitely, after a quick trip to Wikipedia to look up Megaloceros. I think my reindeer look very similar, and I had already decided to post them since I think they're of the season and offer insight into the package design process.

A new banner for this blog was long past due, and I have lots of art for the holidays because I've worked years on Christmas projects, or Hanukah, or whatever holiday you'd like to celebrate -- which is pretty ironic since I'm not a holiday kind of person. (I'll just delete my ranting so it doesn't compete with the PBS soprano, Country Music Christmas, or kids singing Rudolf...)

Packaging is planned far in advance of the holiday. I showed my original design to the client at the end of February, and it was already too late for that year's catalog. My boss and account manager hated it. (Now I'm deleting my tirade about office slugs making design decisions...) Maybe it's my anti-Christmas sentiments, but I liked the graphic black with red and green. Luckily, the creative director at MF has taste and vision, or maybe I just think that because he often agrees with me, but in any case, the project moved forward the next year when I resubmitted it.

The original design only had 1 reindeer. Blue was deemed friendlier than black, and 2 reindeers deemed friendlier than 1. But wait! Maybe red was better after all? I was partial to my original design, but meetings were held, executive wives and the UPS guy were consulted, catalog layouts were revised, and I made changes accordingly over the next months. I'll admit some of these changes were even my ideas, and good direction from the CD yielded great results.

Final art was sent to China. This was a pretty straight-forward project except for my pleas to the Chinese printer for metallic silver ink and explanations to the customer that gradations of silver would be iffy at best, if not impossible. All of this was made more difficult due to a power move by the account manager, who instigated an in-house policy preventing artists from talking to clients. The policy was reversed after complaints by the customers, but reinstituted when a new guy was hired. (I'm sure you're already onto the fact that I'm deleting some more choice observations here...)

I, of course, handled all of this with grace and courtesy since nobody in Utah or China could hear my muttered profanities or how hard my fingers were striking the keyboard.

Printing samples came in the summer. You know how it goes by now. There were more meetings and more secretarial consultations. To tell the truth, I think this is a good time for secretaries' opinions because they can hold the product and represent the buying public. They understand objects better than layouts, and the questions to ask are "Would you buy this?" and if not, "Why not?". There's still time to adjust things if necessary, but usually things proceed with approval and final directions to the printer.

Real samples come in late summer, and hopefully everything is perfect. Once I hear everything is approved, I forget about the project until I actually see the catalog. Other people jump into a flurry of photo shoots, copywriting, and domestic printers. I've done that before, but this job was all about the packaging for me. I spend a blissful October looking at fall leaves and attending Halloween parties -- until November when they start with those incessant carols and holiday specials again.

-- Special note -- My friend Geof is in the hospital. He and his wife Korki are 2 of my favorite people. Prayers and healing thoughts for both are much appreciated. Thanks!!

Friday, November 26, 2010


Living in the moment is something too many of us forget to do, me included as it was pointed out recently. It's important to savor whatever is in front of us at any moment -- warm puppies, happy children, the smell of pine trees, the Thanksgiving leftovers in my refrigerator.

I did the attached flower for no other reason than I felt like doing it. I savored the time of copy/paste/rotate/fill/emboss... When I was done with it, I wondered why did I waste time on something for which I don't have a practical application? There are so many "useful" things I "should" have done instead. I was following a friend's advice to "lighten up", and pushed myself to doodle while watching tv. The doodle seemed enough to computer doodle too.

I read the Tao of Pooh this week, and absolved myself for "wasting" time on impractical computer art. I greatly recommend this book. It's Eastern philosophy ala Winnie the Pooh, and one of my brother Brian's favorites. He has quoted it to me for years, and I finally read it after finding it in my niece's bedroom last weekend.

The lesson I've been contemplating this week is that water doesn't run in a straight line. Having spent so much time on the bank of my river, I've watched the water flow around rocks, wander to the edges, and go wherever it finds the least resistance. Thinking about this has let me give myself permission to quit banging my head on what I "should" do, and apply my energies to the things that feel more comfortable and happy. When I think of "shoulds", I procrastinate and spend my time in self-criticism. In other words, get nothing done instead of making impractical flowers.

Maybe the flower is important in ways I haven't considered? It reminds me of what I like to do, and another of the lessons in the book is to be true to our own natures and success will follow effortlessly. I look at other people's blogs and notice the cute children's art and funny cartoons. That's great for the people who like to do those things, and I like looking at it, but I like painting flowers. Sometimes impractical, fanciful flowers with no apparent use.

I feel lighter and happier to allow myself an impractical flower. I feel less restrained to allow myself to wander wherever the water wants to take me. Happy artists make happy art, and that makes the world better for everyone!

Friday, November 19, 2010


Dad talked about elves and fairies as if they were behind the nearest tree, with a superstitious tension in his shoulders as he explained the ways and laws of their parallel world. "Always treat them with respect" was his most frequent advice. "They don't trust humans" was another of his facts. The main thing I took away from his stories was that elves and fairies could be sneaky and vicious no matter how beautiful they might seem. Walking through a fairy ring of mushrooms could mean death or permanent enslavement in their world.

I laid back and watched dragonflies dancing among the tall grasses and flowers, against the backdrop of blue skies and fluffy clouds, and knew the dragonflies were fairies in disguise. It's always best to be careful. I didn't fear Santa marking down my mistakes on his famous list. I knew the tag marked "from Santa" was in Mom's handwriting. I wasn't stupid. Santa was a myth. Fairies were real. I could feel them in the sparkling grasses next to the water. Listening. They are the spies of the alternate world.

I put my foot inside the fairy ring. Nothing happened. With one foot firmly planted on the outside, I put some weight on the foot inside the ring. Nothing happened again. That night I looked out my bedroom window and wondered if I could see the lights of the fairies' dance, and could almost hear their council deciding whether or not to punish me for daring to question their sovereignty.

The next day I ran through the fairy ring. I figured if I went fast, my feet wouldn't destroy their invisible houses. I nervously watched from my bedroom window to see whether or not they would come to punish me. Nothing happened. The fairies accepted me. I didn't push the boundaries again. I wasn't trying to hurt them, just test my own bravery. I passed.

Some of my all-time favorite books are the series of Faeries and other magical creatures by Brian Froud and Alan Lee.

Friday, November 12, 2010


This is what it looks like inside a Native American sweat lodge. The fire burns outside of the heavily blanketed mound, and hot rocks are brought in so people can sit in the dark and sweat, pray, meditate.

My first sweat lodge was an accident of fate. Hoosier National Forest in Southern Indiana allowed the Lakota Sioux to have a Sun Dance in the park. The Indians took this very seriously, but in order to gain permission, they had to agree to allow parkgoers to watch. The Sioux resented this. I resented their resentment. The Lakota are as native to Indiana as I am. I also resented that they had a lot of unwritten rules that I promptly broke because I didn't know what they were. Alright, it's common sense not to drink pop in front of people who are fasting, but I didn't know they were fasting. I didn't know that I shouldn't pee in the sacred Port-a-Potty (reserved for dancers), or walk in front of the dancers when they weren't dancing. If they'd clued me in about any of this, I would've obliged. As it was, the Indians were annoyed, I was annoyed, but the Sun Dance went on with young men tearing the flesh on their chests where it was attached by thongs to a central pole and the drums beat and beat and beat throughout the heat of the summer day.

As I was setting up camp in the evening, my Blackfoot girlfriend came running to say we were invited to join the women's sweat. That sounded like Greek to me, but I'm game for new experiences. I ran after her, ducked inside the sweat lodge, sat down, and waited for something to happen. Hot rocks were brought in from the fire and put in a central pit and the opening flap was closed. In the pitch black, sage was put on the rocks for cleansing, and the aromatic smoke filled the cramped space in a pleasant, choking way. Water was ladled onto the hot rocks, and a cloud of scorching steam burned my nose and throat. I quickly decided that I had just allowed myself to be trapped in hell. I buried my face in my shirt to try to lessen the pain and misery while I became acutely aware of sweat gushing out of pores I had never bothered to acknowledge before. This is not an activity for people with heart problems or claustrophobia.

Eventually the pain and misery lessened, and I got tired of waiting for something to happen. I let my mind wander, and interesting things surfaced in the wandering. More sage was added from time to time, more scorching steam, and I had resigned myself to my entrapment. Then the prayers started. The leader of the circle stated the intent of the sweat. She said an opening prayer, much of it in the Lakota language. The Sun Dance was for preserving sacred places, and the Indians wanted patience in dealing with the white people. Okay. Asking for blessings for the preservation of the land is something I can go along with, and sometimes I need patience dealing with white people too. I was lulled into an interesting state where my body didn't feel real any more.

Then the next woman in the circle said a prayer. I had the first pains of panic as I realized they were going around the circle with prayers. How was I supposed to say a prayer to their God, for their purposes, without betraying my own beliefs?! I thought fast and hard while the disembodied voices crept closer to my place in the circle. I must've been exceptionally eloquent because the women slapped their thighs and voiced approval. I slumped in relief. I felt like I had just run a gauntlet. Then I realized they were working on another round of prayers, and I had used up all my material. Back to thinking hard and fast for another acceptable prayer. And on and on.

I had a glimmer of hope of escape when the flap was raised, but it was just to bring hotter rocks in. More scalding steam, more sage, more prayers. I wrestled between my feelings of entrapment, physical misery, and an increasing sense of the spiritual rightness in the universe. I quit working so hard on my prayers and just let myself flow with the movement of the spirit combined in the efforts of this small group of women. My meditation in the silence reached levels I hadn't considered seeking before. I quit thinking about my imprisonment and felt the moment suspended in an alternate reality of now.

When I was finally released, I suddenly realized I was the only one sitting in the dark fully clothed. My jeans were soaked through with sweat as if I had just gone swimming in the river. My husband of the time smelled me, and said my sweat smelled sweet and clean, more like rain water than sweat. I drank a gallon of water then slept like a rock in my sleeping bag, with dreams that built on my meditations.

The next day, my face shone in a different way. The surly shaman actually smiled at me. The women offered me breakfast. I peed in the right Port-a-Potty, and the Sun Dance made more sense to me.

Friday, November 5, 2010


I'm sulking this week because I'm facing another birthday. I stood in line at the license bureau and contemplated my driver's license. I swear I've aged too much in the 4 years since the last picture. It was so different when I stood in line to get my fake ID as a teenager. This time I paid $80 for a little plastic sticker for my license plate and a crappier picture than I had before. It just doesn't seem fair. I'd like my $80 and 20 years back.

Of course we can't undo or redo things we've already lived through, but I wonder about some of the decisions I've made along the way. Where would my life be if I'd taken the job at Hallmark? What if I'd moved out after I threw the engagement ring across the room? I'm living with all the "afterwards" of my decisions. I don't really regret them, but sometimes I've just got to pause and wonder what if?

Part of the thing of youth is that "afterwards" don't get considered very much. If it sounds fun, let's do it! Experience let's me know drinking too much causes hangovers, spending too much causes debt, and most importantly, I'm not immune to those kinds of things. Wisdom makes life somewhat less fun, and I'm not even sure it makes us any more secure a lot of the time. There's got to be a proper balance between taking chances and hanging onto security.

When I was in Girl Scouts, my troop went camping in winter where there was a swimming pool with a thin layer of ice on top. One of the brilliant counselors suggested breaking the ice and "polar bear" swimming. A line of skinny little girls stood shivering in our bathing suits and looked at her like she was nuts. Eventually I decided I was cold either way, so I jumped in and started swimming. A few girls followed my lead, and the rest watched from the sidelines. Good thing we didn't die of pneumonia while we were led back to the lodge wrapped in towels, shivering hard enough to cause an earthquake, while listening to a lecture about "character building".

Since it didn't kill me, I think maybe it did build some character. I learned I had some leadership abilities, could make my own choices, and it's okay to take some risks. Sometimes we do have to jump into the ice, and even though I'm faced with another birthday, I'm not so old I can't jump in if I feel like it.

Friday, October 29, 2010


I made this painting during a previous period of unemployment when I was making extra bucks substitute teaching. I was killing time during a free period, and it was pleasant to rag leftover tempera paint onto a scrapped piece of poster board. That didn't kill enough time, so I made circles over the background with a plastic circle template. I took it home and finished it with colored pencils. Somewhere along the line I decided all the circles represented coins, and I needed to bring more coins into my life. I liked the colors well enough that I hung it up at home, but I have often thought that I should've been trying to manifest dollars, not coins. I'm still trying to manifest dollars.

I liked substitute teaching. The kids were fun and often sparked new ideas in me for my own work. I liked popping in and out of their lives, hopefully leaving some useful tidbits behind.

One class, there was a very dry lesson plan about water cycles. Clouds rain, water flows downhill, evaporates into clouds... The kids looked like they needed poked with cattle prods. When I explained everything flows downhill, that all junk eventually ends up in their drinking water, they started to pick up a little. One punk kid made a joke about drinking pee. I said "exactly", and they all started talking. It was a lively, educational discussion, and I think I helped make about 28 kids more environmentally friendly.

Sure beats "killing time" between classes, but I guess even that goes to show that it's our choice what we do with our time. We can bitch and groan about time wasting, or we can use the time towards something more valuable.

On a completely different note, I found this Confederate money in a box this week. For those of you outside the US, America split in two in the 1800s over issues of states rights and slavery. A very bloody war was fought, and the Confederacy (Southern states) lost. My grandpa's family was from Tennessee, which is how this money ended up in my box. I doubt I could get $5 for it today even though it is 150 years old. Money from winners is always more valuable, isn't it?

The bill is very delicate, so I scanned it to look at it better. I haven't decided what to do with it yet, but it seems like there's an art project in it somehow? If nothing else, at least the South got an artist to design it in the first place, but it seems like bloody money. I just think it's interesting, and thought others might like to look at it too.

Friday, October 22, 2010


"Racing" reminds me of a family camping trip where I met a bunch of Algonquin boys running in a field. They ran back and forth and back and forth all afternoon. They insisted I had to run barefoot, and I got spiked in the foot with some woody weed. I pulled it out and kept running, and they praised me for being tough.

I envied their freedom. Everybody got along, everyone laughed, and somehow running was something they were driven to do. They didn't care if I was a girl as long as I could keep up, and I think it was the first time I felt like my sex didn't matter. It was also before I wanted to be noticed as a girl. When they started tackling each other, I got tackled too. When I tried to tackle a big boy, he snatched me up and threw me to another kid who carried me like a football to the end of the field. I guess I should be glad that was before football players started spiking the ball in the end zone.

My first thought when I saw the word of the week is that nobody can make me draw race cars in my free time. My second thought was Winslow Homer's "Crack the Whip". It wasn't much of a jump to remember the Algonquin boys from there.

I love Homer's action and the balance of realism with loose, impressionistic brush strokes. Flowers are quick dabs of color, faces are smeared blobs, but the anatomy is correct and real. The painting is much smaller than I imagined before seeing it at the Butler Museum in Youngstown, Ohio. There is a lot of info about Homer online, and if you aren't familiar with him, I'd recommend looking him up. He did a lot of powerful work during the American Civil War, and spent his old age in New England painting the ocean. Much of his work has hidden social messages, and I admire his spirit.

Crack the Whip is a kids' game where they all hold hands and run together until the kid at the end stops and yanks the chain of children. As shown in the painting, the kid on the end falls off. I played this with my siblings when I was small, and it kept us occupied until we were all a sweaty heap of laughter.

When I started this blog, I had such different ideas in mind. I didn't realize it would so often become a diary of happy little memories of childhood, but the words of the week take me back, and I'm glad when my stories hit a note with other people. Grownups get too bound up with thoughts of bills, and what we want, or what we can't have. We forget what it's like to play, to feel free, and to see the future as endless as a perfect summer day running with healthy, friendly boys.

Homer's work speaks for itself. I wasn't about to paint a similar subject for comparison, so the top pic is something I did in PhotoShop, and the other is a pencil doodle to fit the theme.

Thanks to everyone for their comments about my "spooky" post. I'm sorry I wasn't able to return everyone's visit. I've been having headaches, which I guess is just another reason to think about happy summer days of childhood :)

Friday, October 15, 2010


I was in the woods once, walking towards a barn at night, and an owl flew right over my head into the open hayloft. Absolutely silent. If that's not awesome and spooky, I don't know what is. I don't care if I understand an owl's feathers have a special fringed edge to muffle sound. It's freaky when a large bird silently swoops over your head at night.

There are a lot of spooky things at night. The house can creak and groan when it settles, we can't see into the dark, and our imaginations can start running wild with wonderings about what is just outside of the light. It doesn't help when we actually experience things we can't explain or when other people tell us such things aren't possible. How can we be sure the things we "know" are really true?

There are two different worlds on Earth. There's the daytime animals and human activities, and when all of them go to bed, the others come creeping out. But humans still tend to circle the bonfire or eat at the brightly lit all-night restaurant, or work third shift under the factory's sodium lights. At heart, I think most of us are afraid of the dark.

The owl eyes are colored pencil on black construction paper. The bats are watercolor and pencil.

Friday, October 8, 2010


I grew up in an isolated valley, and one of the things I wanted most was transportation out of there. Nature is great, but I wanted a friend that didn't have fur, scales, feathers, or a shell.

The next-door-neighbors were "Summer People", meaning they came to garden in nice weather. They were "Old Country" (Europeans), and because of them I have the idea that all Europeans must keep everything they've ever owned. Instead of throwing things away, they had stages of storage. Good stuff in the house, okay stuff in the barn, junk hidden in a clearing amongst the pine trees.

I'd really like to make excuses about plundering their junk, but I mean really, did they actually expect me to leave their unsupervised stuff alone? The fact that many of the rusty old farm tools had wheels on them made them very attractive to me. I had endless time to clean and oil them into some level of functionality. I think it's probably a good thing I didn't know how to make a motor or I would've driven out of the glen without looking back.

My creations didn't get me out of the valley, but I had fun making them. I also enjoyed decorating them with pine cones and flowers while I waited for my fairy godmother to turn one of them into a carriage to take me to the ball.

Friday, October 1, 2010


When I was a teenager, I got a job as a lifeguard at a summer camp. When the counselors learned I liked art, my duties got expanded to teaching crafts to the "slow" kids. I guess it's all how you look at things, but I didn't think the kids were all that slow, but that was before half the kids were diagnosed with ADHD and given Ritalin. Maybe they weren't the best at school, but part of the problem was they really didn't like sitting still very long. They'd slap their projects together quickly, then look for trouble until I thought about the salamanders. After all, we were doing crafts at a picnic table in the woods.

I showed them how to look beneath rocks and rotten logs and sort through the leaves to find the squiggly little things, and taught them to hold the salamanders gently because they have delicate skin. The kids happily looked for bugs and grubs to feed them while the kids who liked doing crafts finished their projects. My class became their favorite, and the counselors ended up giving them to me through most of the summer. They were sweethearts.

There was more to the job because we were also trying to get "retarded" adults out of an institution and into group homes by teaching them basic skills. I was to teach them water safety. That's a story in itself because they really didn't get the concept. Also, about half of them weighed about half a ton each, and if they decided to walk on the bottom of the pool in the deep end, I was the one who had to get them out. But even with the scares they gave me, the adults were sweethearts too. I racked up a lot of love that summer!

The picture is wax pencil on coquille board. And yes, I know the terms I used aren't PC any more. I wrote this in context of the times and say "developmentally delayed" now.

Friday, September 24, 2010


Lake Farmpark is a demonstration farm celebrating Ohio's farming heritage. It is part of the Lake Metroparks park system in Lake County where I was Art Director. Most things at Lake Farmpark are "old-fashioned".

This piece was created to launch the facility to the public and potential sponsors. It is a bi-fold folder with inside flaps which hold a brochure, business card, and informational step downs.

The art for this was old-fashioned too. Painstaking rendering with Prismacolor pencils was insane. One of the joys of being Art Director is that I could assign myself a task like this. One of the miseries is that meant I did a lot of this on my own time after hours because I wanted to do it, and didn't feel it was fair to do it on the parks' time when quicker methods would've worked.

A lot goes into a project like this, and that doesn't even count in the major display I designed for the Cleveland Home and Flower Show to launch the campaign. (Though I am happy to say we won awards!) I researched what the facility would be because it didn't exist yet. I wrote copy and got it approved by staff, committees, and the board.

I had already designed the Lake Metroparks' logo, and created a separate, but complementary logo for the Farmpark -- which of course meant going back through the layers of staff, committees, and board. Bidding out the printing and hovering over the press checks was both fun and anxious for me. I cursed my own district-wide policy of printing only on recycled paper. The stock absorbed the ink, and many of my lovely Prismacolor details were lost.

Sometimes I look at projects like this and think they're wonderful because I know how much I put into them, but reality is that other people often don't understand or care. This piece was successful, and that's all they really care about. Lake Farmpark is known in the region, and I had something to do with that success. I went there for a farmers' market last week, and the drive is lined with two rows of banners of the logo, my logo. I felt a little surge of happiness.

The Prismacolors are getting dusty. I just don't love them any more!

Saturday, September 18, 2010


When I went to college, there were 2 teachers charged with teaching anatomy to freshmen, and they had very different schools of thought about it. One teacher had a textbook approach to making students memorize body parts. I'm glad I had Mr. Larrabee instead. We drew from models, then located the bones and muscles in our drawings. I found this extremely helpful because prior to this I had only thought about the outside skin of the people I drew. This technique did a lot to flatten my ego about how well I thought I could draw at that time, but it also made me a much better artist.

Anatomy class gave me heart palpitations at first. I stopped in my tracks and did the "uh, uh, uh" the first time I saw a naked woman smoking outside of class. My suburban/rural upbringing must've been obvious because she rather casually put on her robe while I tried to scrape my jaw off the ground. She didn't bother to tie it though. My 17-year-old self will never forget her sagging breasts, stretch marks, and C-section scar. At that age I didn't really understand gravity, and I'm pretty sure the stretch marks and scar promoted my feelings about proper use of contraceptives. Later on, I laughed when I saw new crops of freshmen staggering in shock of their first naked models. I wonder if teachers ever get tired of seeing freshmen at their first anatomy class?

I think a lot of people never get to live that memorable moment or learn basic anatomy. Here are some basic rules to live by, and I think they apply no matter what style an artist is working in...

1. Arms and legs have straight bones inside of them. Okay, if you really want to get into it, there's 2 major bones in the forearm, and 2 in the calf, but let's stick with the basic principle. If you're trying to draw something that looks vaguely human, you should be able to draw straight lines from shoulder to elbow, elbow to wrist, hip to knee, and knee to ankle. In other words, avoid breaking bones in your subjects.

2. We've gotten used to distortions in photos, but viewers are less forgiving when they look at art. If a leg looks small in a reference photo, does it look like a deformity in your drawing? If you're going to make a hand huge, do it on purpose because it's aimed at the viewer. In general, body parts should look like they belong on the same body.

3. Avoid cutting off hands, feet, arms, and legs with the edge of the picture. Doing so makes your subject look like they've had an amputation. It makes people uncomfortable, even if that discomfort is on a subliminal level. Especially avoid blunt crops at joints, and show both arms and/or legs when it makes sense to show them. Otherwise the absence of a limb can also look like an amputation.

4. Muscles are convex, meaning they bulge out. They never curve in. Think of a bicep. Every muscle acts the same way, just on a lesser scale. And remember, the muscles attach to the bones inside. Imagine beginning and ending points for those muscles.

5. Practice makes perfect. Find people and pictures to study. Get an anatomy book for artists, but avoid fashion photography. That has been highly distorted in PhotoShop.

Rules were made to be broken, but if you break the rules, know what you're breaking and why. 5 rules seemed like enough for this posting, but I'd be happy to hear any other suggestions people have.

And how this ties to "acrobat"? Because basic anatomy is essential to trapeze artists, sports figures, and dodging whatever is coming your way. Both pictures are from college days. The painting is oil on canvas.

Friday, September 10, 2010


The Byrds sang "Turn, Turn, Turn" straight out of the Bible, except for the last line. The music is by Pete Seeger. The Byrds' version was released when I was a very little child, the Viet Nam war was going on, and I couldn't understand why my dad railed against hippies for saying "make love, not war".

To everything, turn, turn, turn
There is a season, turn, turn, turn
And a time to every purpose, under Heaven

A time to be born, a time to die
A time to plant, a time to reap
A time to kill, a time to heal
A time to laugh, a time to weep

To everything, turn, turn, turn
There is a season, turn, turn, turn
And a time to every purpose, under Heaven.

A time to build up, a time to break down
A time to dance, a time to mourn
A time to cast away stones, a time to gather stones together

To everything, turn, turn, turn
There is a a season, turn, turn, turn
And a time to every purpose, under Heaven

A time of love, a time of hate
A time of war, a time of peace
A time you may embrace, a time to refrain from embracing

To everything turn, turn, turn
There is a season, turn, turn, turn
And a time to every purpose, under Heaven

A time to gain, a time to lose
A time to rend, a time to sew
A time for love, a time for hate
A time for peace, I swear it's not too late

I argued with my Sunday school teacher Mrs. Blazy about this song. I didn't want to accept that God sanctioned war or hate, especially when the horrors of Viet Nam were on TV every night. I'm sure I was responsible for some of Mrs. Blazy's gray hair for this and other religious differences.

I have an ongoing war against the maple trees that try to reforest my yard. I pulled these in spring, and thought their deaths ought to count for something, so I scanned them and did a lot of PhotoShop because I was studying new techniques. The original scan is below just to show that I actually did some work to get it to look like this.

I sang the song while yanking the baby maples. I can't help myself. It's a good song, and I'm not going to live in a maple forest with squirrels throwing things at my head and eating my fruit before it's ripe. Okay, there's nothing I can do about the squirrels short of shooting them, and I'm not ready to take that step... yet.

Everything changes. David Crosby isn't the fresh-faced boy he was in the '60s. The maple leaves will be changing colors soon, then falling, then snow and bare branches before I have a new crop of maple seedlings to pull out. There are a lot of proverbs about change, but this song speaks to me most because I find the truths in it so uncomfortable to deal with.

Friday, September 3, 2010


I had a job making pretty boxes for chocolates and bakery products. This box was made for Mrs. Fields as part of a holiday series. I'm happy to say this series was so successful, I created new art for it every year.

This art started out as pieces of watercolor that I scanned and morphed in PhotoShop. I keep the elements on different layers because there are always changes. The background door changed from red to green to weathered white before the customer was satisfied.

All of the elements in this piece were created from very little actual painting. For instance, the berries were created from just two bunches. Copy/paste, copy/paste... except the Creative Director for Mrs. Fields is very observant, and had me alter the highlights on every berry so it showed the light source coming from one direction. Good call on his part. Silent groaning on mine. That's a lot of berries!

Even something like the bow was created in multiple layers. I painted a solid bow, tried out different colors, put a brocade pattern over it, and played with the shadows and highlights to match everything else. Even the tag attached to the bow took seven layers: background colors, star, text, grommet, and string.

It has to be this way in a corporate world. I loved working with MF's CD because he has a good eye, makes useful comments, and appreciates good work -- but he is only one cog in the corporate world, though a very important cog in that wheel. My art went to committees of people I never spoke with, and often returned with comments like "Put teddy bears in it" because somebody's wife likes teddy bears. Having a great CD can keep the teddy bears out of things because the CD can defend your work when you can't.

All of this is just the domestic side of business. I also created schematic drawings and printing directions for Chinese manufacturers, often for someone who doesn't speak English. I don't plan on learning Chinese, so we often had to rely on computer translations, which can be like talking through mud. Numbers and drawings they understand.

Samples of the boxes would come from China, product samples came from the customer to see if they fit properly, and I fended off my coworkers' appetites long enough to measure things. I loved getting samples. I really like Mrs. Fields' cookies, but I also got the most decadent chocolates from some of my customers... Uh, excuse me... I started having chocolate flashbacks.

Once all of the above was settled, I created final art for the printer. I originally started out just doing layouts, but when the okay came through for a project, they wanted it out the door immediately. It became easier to work on elements of the final art through the approval process, and adapting it to the final die lines.

When I started this blog, I had the best intentions of trying to say useful things to other artists. I hope this gives some insight into what it's like to make packaging art. I'm open to other ideas of what you'd like to see in the future too. I love getting feedback!

Friday, August 27, 2010


The first thing I thought with this word was rocks, or maybe the old refrigerator in my basement -- heavy, difficult things I don't really want. Then I started thinking about an old boyfriend who was stubborn in his points of view, which is why we aren't together any more. I was stubborn too, but I'm pretty sure I was also right. We could pick up the same fight years later and still remain immovable in our beliefs. What a shame really.

Nothing is actually immovable. Our molecules are constantly jiggling, the planet orbits around the sun, and the sun is part of the vastly moving universe. I can stand with my feet firmly planted and my arms crossed while the planet forces me through space, and time creates change around me. Even my beliefs and attitudes change, no matter how much I want to hang onto principles or things already gone by.

I got this lesson every year when I was growing up. Boulders in the river looked immovable, but the spring floods came and shoved them downstream a little every year, and then a little more, and then more, until I noticed a huge granite boulder I used to sit on behind the Lutsch's house is now behind the Hollar's. That's a long ways, and it made me feel old and timeless at once.

I'm very much like the boulder. I want to draw with a pencil and paint with a brush, but life is like the flood that forces me to adapt and use technology. After some complaining, I've figured out I can like computers too. Life changes, people change.

This is a big painting for me, 30" x 20" in acrylics. I hate to apologize for the quality of the image, but I had it framed before getting it properly reproduced. Taking this one apart would be a nightmare, so I haven't done it. It's hanging in the living room, and I'm leaving it there. At least I'm leaving it there as long as life doesn't make me reassess it again, and that day will come. None of our beliefs are as sacred as we think they are. This painting will eventually be sent to the attic or sold or given away because something always happens. The trick is to quit fighting the floods.

Friday, August 20, 2010


Home repair is wrecking my delicate ecosystem. The plumbing disaster last month inspired me to get Adam the Plumber to replace the drain pipe from the kitchen sink. That wasn't part of my flood, but now I have plumbing paranoia. He also took out the dishwasher because I never use it, and if you don't use a dishwasher, it goes bad. They waste a lot of water and energy anyway.

Adam told me to put Drain-o down the pipe to clear out any residual gunk in the connecting pipes. I read the directions and obediently flushed with hot water. I forgot about the furnace guy turning up the water heater to the temperature of the sun. Factoids: faucets these days have plastic inside. Plastic melts at the temperature of the sun. The cheapest new faucet is $80. AAAAAaaaaaagggghh!!!!

Adam is a sweet guy, but not a little one. The opening for my corner sink is 8" wide. He said he'd have to find someone very skinny to access the faucet pipes. I don't have money for 2 plumbers, so I decided to fix it myself. Since the dishwasher is out, I dismantled the cupboard for better access. That worked great for all but one of the connections which was completely rusted together. Late into the night I attacked the faucet with a hack saw. You know, if they put chintzy plastic parts in the faucet, why is the rest solid brass? That's about as easy to saw apart as taking a leg off the Eiffel Tower. After much sweat and swearing, it's off and the $80 replacement is on. It's shiny and pretty and my greatest accomplishment to date.

There's a creepy atmosphere of absolute silence around it. I didn't realize how accustomed I'd gotten to the perpetual drip of the old faucet, and that gets back to the destruction of my delicate ecosystem. Bugs went there for the water, spiders spun webs to catch the bugs. I leave a light on over the sink in the evenings which attracts other bugs, so the carnivorous ecosystem was pretty much continuous -- but no more. The eerie silence of the non-dripping faucet must've scared the spiders away too. Nothing lives there any more. No mold, no moths, no spiders. I'm just not sure I can adjust to this.

The linoleum got replaced in the kitchen and down the stairs to the basement this week. It's a story in itself to explain why I had the most expensive company do it instead of begging favors from my almost-brother-in-law, but it was actually cheaper for me because the insurance company is insane. I kind of dread explaining to my sister and her boyfriend, but he really needs to learn to schmooz some claims adjusters.

Guilt aside, the new floor looks nice, but it made the kitchen cabinets look awful, especially the hole in the cupboards where the dishwasher had been. I spent 2 days trying to make them look better with liberal doses of wood putty, paint, and scouring powder.

Are you tired yet from reading about all of this? My knees are screaming at me for crawling around on the floor while doing plumbing contortions, and there's still a lot of stuff that needs put away. That doesn't even count in the fact that the wood floors need refinished, and that means everything in the house has to be shifted from room to room to clear off the floor.

... examining my biceps... I am woman, hear me roar!!!

Oh yeah, I used to do work for a feng shui instructor, so I know the kitchen is the love center of my house according to that tradition. Just something I've been thinking about while I wonder about my absent spiders.

The spider tin was created for Firefly Fandango. It may be a stretch for "atmosphere", but I figured it was time for an update about my disaster relief. I like the word for the week, so may attempt a second post if I can stop trying to get the house in order -- but then, the house is my atmosphere.

Friday, August 13, 2010


There are people who might be surprised that I'm patriotic. I get ticked at my politicians on a regular basis, and have been a pacifist since I watched TV as a child and saw other children running from explosions in Viet Nam. There simply has to be better ways of solving the world's problems than blowing people and places up.

Don't get me wrong -- I believe in our right to self-defense, but wars with Iraq and Afghanistan make less sense than blowing up Saudi Arabia if we're actually retaliating for 9/11. But like I said, I'm a pacifist. I don't want to blow up anybody, and I don't want our soldiers blown up either. It hurts me to see young people without arms, legs, or faces because of the stupid decisions made by people in power for oil interests. Rich people get richer, and everybody involved suffers. The rest of us are supposed to buy cars and stuff to help the economy and avoid looking at that man controlling things behind the curtain.

On the other hand, my country right or wrong -- right? America isn't just the flawed people in Washington or greedy corporations or fruit loops in Waco, Texas or whatever other crackpots you might want to point to that live here. America is an ideal of freedoms. Believe in the religion of your choice, or don't believe in one at all. Every child is given a basic education and libraries are free. Anyone can go to college and study the career of their choice and abilities. In theory anyway, none of us is limited by our caste in life. The streets may not be paved in gold, but we do provide opportunities. It isn't all given to you, but you have the guaranteed right to work towards your own happiness. We have the right to say what we want and to create pictures of anything we want, even if it criticizes the government itself.

My sense of patriotism runs deep. My ancestors have fought in America's wars since the first war against the British, and I even had relatives who signed the Declaration of Independence. My relatives fought on both sides of the Civil War, in both world wars, Korea, the Gulf, etc. I feel obligated to support the people who are willing to die for our freedoms and the greater good, but that doesn't mean I have to support the politicians that send them in the line of fire in the first place. And as an American woman, I do have the right to vote. I think there are a lot of Americans who share my views, but we are the quiet majority who seldom get heard in the news.

My flag is painted in acrylics. There are 13 smaller stars representing the original colonies with a large star symbolizing the unity between the states. Or maybe the big star is for Ohio, because obviously, that's the best state. Anyone who says different is clearly deluded and/or prejudiced, or looking for a fight. Which kind of gets to the point of patriotism. It's love of home, wherever your home is. I'm just lucky that I get to call America and Ohio home.

Friday, August 6, 2010


What can you do if you cage a hawk?
Broken wings beating in fury against false walls
She will break herself before being broken
In an unfair prison.

A tethered leg bound to a stump,
Broken wings bound,
Glassy eyes glaring in mistrust,
Flashes of hate piercing your skin.
She would kill you, blind you, hurt you
If she had a chance.

She hangs her drugged head, and
Her broken heart pounds painfully.
Inside hard bandages and soft feathers
Longing, gasping, waiting
For her chance to break loose.

She wants more than vengeance.
She wants the songs and silence of the sky.
So close to God,
So near her soul,
Where she belongs,
Where she rules supreme.


-- The art was created for Lake Metroparks' Wildlife Rehabilitation Center as part of a fundraising campaign. The poem was not.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010


Anything artificial isn't real. It's false. It's a lie. It's a deception to fool us into thinking that orange drink is something like orange juice, even though it's full of sugar, chemicals, and manufactured vitamins.

I've tried a number of starts for this topic of the week, and found them all rather depressing. It's just my nature to look for honesty in people and things. I want to look for the good around us instead of being sucked into thoughts of artificial things created in China with plastic made possible with Middle Eastern oil -- which then gets shipped around the world for purchase at Wal-Mart. I don't want to think about artificial people either. You never really know where you stand with them. I'd rather hear unpleasant truths than try to figure out what someone else might be doing or saying behind the scenes.

Fishing flies are artificial in another way. They are created to mimic things fish want to eat. Creating them can be an art form in itself, and I started painting them instead of fishing after meeting a Japanese couple in Yellowstone. We didn't understand anything the other said, but the man showed off his fishing flies, which were exquisite faux grasshoppers and other bugs. I'd still go fishing if I were hungry enough, but I'd rather order fish at a restaurant off the menu than cut off somebody else's head.

This is watercolor with rice paper on the border. I'm hoping next week's word is something nicer like "natural".

Wednesday, July 28, 2010


My first thought for IF's word of the week was to go back to my girl with the bucket on her head of a couple weeks ago, but having 2 girls scrubbing my basement because I need a double. The plumbing disaster has been disastrous, and I have been scrubbing mold and mildew from things before tossing them in the driveway as hopeless.

The claims adjuster has come and gone, and I guess he doesn't value my stuff as much as I do. All these years of collecting has been forcibly brought back to a more manageable level. Gone is the solid oak desk I used in college. Gone are the wooden cubby holes I got from a previous job. Gone is the oak bookshelf my dad scavenged from Case Western when they remodeled their dorms. Gone, gone, gone... but did I really need any of these things? When was the last time I actually worked at that desk?

Objects that remind me of people don't really bring those people back. If you get down to it, my creepy landlord gave me that desk, and remembering him just brings back the image of him peeking in my window. But the desk reminded me of sharing the rundown party house with Pat and Matt and how they shot the wall with a nail gun. They stuck birthday candles in the holes, then nearly burned the house down while they laughed and ate Cap'n Crunch dry out of the box -- but do I need a big, moldy piece of furniture to remind me of my very accurate prediction of what would happen when they lit those candles?

I'm too tired this week to make new art, so this is something I did for the dedication of Lake Farmpark, which is a demonstration farm in Lake County, Ohio. The art was created in pen and ink then printed on linen paper. I'd like to write something sweet about my twin brothers, but I'm pretty sure they know I love them. Besides, they like to be considered singular individuals instead of part of a pair anyway. Give me time. I'll write about them eventually!

Friday, July 16, 2010


I spent most of my childhood looking forward to August. The first 2 weeks were Girl Scout camp, and the last 2 weeks were Grandma's. Good breakfasts all the way around, but the best were at Grandma's.

She was round, jolly, and straight out of Norman Rockwell's "Freedom of Want". In fact, everything about her was a demonstration of freedom of want. The candy jar was always filled, the table was heavy with dinners, and breakfasts were made to order whenever my sisters and I woke up in the mornings -- until 10:00. I overslept once and was informed the kitchen was closed. I had to eat cereal with sour currents on top with Grandpa. I never overslept again.

The best breakfast was when I was about 8. Grandma was smiling in the kitchen when I came down the stairs. She asked for my order, and I put some thought into it. I didn't get these kinds of luxuries at home. Grandma was so willing, so loving, I put her to the test.

1 poached egg
Blueberry waffles
Fresh squeezed orange juice, with pulp

Grandma looked at me with shock. I'm sure she never considered that I would stretch her morning amiability so far. I offered to revise my order, but she said it was okay, and heaved herself under the cupboards for the waffle iron and mixing bowls. I hopped around and gathered the ingredients while popping fresh blueberries in my mouth in my excitement.

It was fun to cook with Grandma, and when other people in the house realized what we were making, we had an audience and welcome takers for the waffles. Nothing had ever tasted so good. Fresh maple syrup from Amish country and a light dusting of confectioners' sugar sifted over top, on the dishes my great grandpa had made when he worked at Hall Pottery.

I already loved Grandma, and I loved her even more for that breakfast, but I never tested her again. I ate poached eggs or cereal the rest of that visit to show her my appreciation. Best Grandma. No wonder I longed for August all year.

It's funny about memories like this. The obvious illustration should be Grandma and me in her glossy turquoise kitchen with sparkling white cabinets, and windows that looked out to Grandpa's apple tree -- but I don't want to touch this memory with something less than perfection, and that kind of perfection just isn't going to happen this week.

In case you ready last week's posting, my plumbing issues have been disastrous. I had to call the insurance company and have had very hot, very noisy machines in my house all week trying to dry things out. I still have 2 of the machines, and I'm just not going to try people illustrations with that kind of disruption going on. I'm not even sure I'd like to do a picture of Grandma. She's perfect in my memories.