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

Good designs sell – mine sell out!

Friday, July 29, 2011

"Obsession"

Keiichi, an older Japanese man I used to work with, said I was a perfectionist. “But I’m so much better than I used to be!” I sputtered in protest. “Nobody likes perfect” he said in one of his classic statements of truth before laughing and walking away while I was left pondering my OCD pursuit of excellence. Keiichi made me nuts, and I really hated it when he hit me in the heart of my disfunctions.

He was right of course. If art is “perfect”, it becomes sterile and unlovable. We can draw a line on the computer which is absolutely straight and perfect, and nobody wants to look at that. A straight line painted in watercolor is a whole different animal, and gives us so much more to look at. These poppies still make me cringe, but I’ve hung them on an odd wall in my kitchen as a reminder to myself to give up perfection.

I was given a completely unreasonable set of deadlines for major clients while 2 of my coworkers basked in the luxury of making art just because. In other words, they were making art that might be used in the future for a project, but without a real project in mind for it yet. Then our boss came in and said that we all had to do layouts for an important presentation that afternoon. I’d like to say that was an unusual kind of situation, but no, it was pretty common, and on this particular day I didn’t take it very well. I tried to make her see reason, but she demanded completion of my original projects plus the layouts for the afternoon. I plotted her murder while cutting every corner and whipped out these poppies in a frenzy of flying paint. One of my coworkers smiled smugly as he passed me and I decided to plot his murder too.

Predictably, the original important clients were unhappy with the cut corners and had more revisions. The afternoon customers picked a layout from my smug coworker who had had the proper time to do the job right. I slammed the poppies in a drawer and went home for the day, knowing full well that the whole situation would repeat itself at some point, and it did.

So, on the day when I was given 2 hours to paint the Sistine Chapel or its equivalent, I pulled out the poppies and slapped it on a layout. This time the customer bit. Yay! Until the bitchy saleswoman said she needed final art for the printer that day. What?! It was already 3:30 in the afternoon and as you can see in the layout, this wasn’t a simple rectangular box. When I asked basic questions like what goes on the back of the box, the saleswoman went ballistic and said I was being uncooperative. Ballistic was her default emotion, so I just continued the art around the back. The customer later had to have stickers printed to paste over the back with ingredient information because the saleswoman hadn’t wanted to look ignorant and ask the questions she should’ve asked in the first place.

So, the art was printed, and my perfectionist self made faces at the printed samples when they came in. There wasn’t much I could do about it, so I unsuccessfully tried to put it out of my mind. There’s nothing worse than having work you aren’t proud of reproduced hundreds of times, printed in catalogs, and plastered over the web.

But here’s the thing… The customer was happy. The customer’s customers were happy. My boss was happy and the saleswoman was happy. Everybody made money except for me, and everybody was happy except for me. I decided I needed to rearrange my attitude.

There are all sorts of things I would’ve liked to have fixed in this piece if I’d had more time, but let’s get real. Nobody would’ve noticed the differences if I’d had the time to fix them. People might actually like these flowers better because they were more spontaneous than my usual, uptight perfectionism. Okay, this is an internal battle I still continue to fight with myself, but like I said to Keiichi, I’m so much better than I used to be!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

"Sunshine Award"

Susanna Maier (Trade Your Talent) from Berlin, Germany gave me a "Sunshine Award". Thanks so much Susanna! She has a great site, so I hope you take time to check it out. She is currently working on a fundraiser to provide scholarships for young mothers and underprivileged girls to attend secondary schools in Ifakara, Tanzania, and has information about how you can help on her site.

The rules for receiving the award:
- Thank the person who gave you the award.
- Write a post about it.
- Answer the questions below.
- Pass it on to 10 bloggers who you think really deserve it and send them a message to let them know.

The questions:
01. My favorite color: red
02. My favorite animal: my little dog Penny
03. My favorite number: 4
04. My favorite non-alcoholic drink? limeade
05. I joined facebook, but not twitter
06. My passion: I can’t pick just one. I care deeply about the environment, children’s issues and education, and art in its many forms.
07. Getting or giving presents? Probably politically incorrect to admit it, but I like receiving, though giving gifts to kids is fun too.
08. My favorite pattern? paisley
09. My favorite day of the week? Saturday
10. My favorite flower? This is like choosing your favorite child, isn’t it? I love the smell of Lily of the Valley, and the complexity of iris, but maybe my absolute favorite is snowdrops because they remind me that spring will come again :)

10 Favorite Bloggers:
I hate choosing just 10, but excluding people Susanna picked and people I gave an award to in January (see here)…

Mushroom Tender
Federfund Illustration der Blog
Shirley Ng-Benitez
Krista Hamrick
Sharon Wagner
Indigene
Atelier Brigitte
Mardi Speth
Vilt og Vakkert
AbbyNormal

Friday, July 22, 2011

"Perennial"

Humans are creatures of habit. We get up and do the same things we did yesterday. That’s true for babies, teenagers, old people, and everybody in between. Some of us like to think that we’re different and unique, but our parents thought that too, and so did their parents. Everything and everybody is on a perennial cycle. I’m rather inclined to being philosophical today, but it’s too hot in Ohio for that today. I think I’ll talk about the perennial nature of light instead.

I said I might write something about reflected light when I made my lesson on shadows, but I think I need to talk about the nature of light first. Let’s just consider this a serial proposition. It worked for Charles Dickens, maybe it will work for blogging too?

Rule #1: Light travels in straight lines. We could talk about bending light with gravity or other cool things scientists talk about, but for our purposes, light travels in straight lines.

Rule #2: Light gets interrupted if things get in the way.

Rule #3: Light reflects. Light colors reflect more light than dark things. Yeah, I know, I just said I’m not getting into reflected light yet, but bear with me.

Imagine you’ve got a flashlight. You turn it on, and the light is brightest by the light bulb, and disintegrates the farther away it gets from the bulb. The light spreads out and gets fainter the farther away it gets from you. If you’re standing in dark woods, you may not be able to see what broke that twig in the distance, but maybe you can see the reflection of the gleaming eyes of whatever is lurking out there. (This would be a cool place to insert a ghost story, but I’m just not that good at that kind of thing, so try this out instead.)

Okay, after someone has dealt with the ghost looking for her golden arm or the hungry bear, what happened to the light from the flashlight? Remember rule #2? Light gets interrupted. Even though we don’t think about air getting in the way of things, it’s full of dust, campfire smoke, and bugs. Each dust mote can interrupt some of that light. When enough of that crud has gotten in the way, our light from the flashlight has been so diverted, it runs out of steam – but it might have just enough life left in it to reflect against those shiny eyes hidden in the dark.

These same ideas hold true in daylight. The reason that mountains or trees look bluer and foggier in the distance is because of all the crud in the air between us and them. Things closest to us will have a lot more details than things far away.

You can use these principles to enhance the mood of your art. If there’s a campfire, the smoke will affect the light. In fact, that’s a good reason to have a bonfire tonight. Once the logs have caught, look around. Sing some campfire songs too. If you’ve got someone with a guitar, even better. Who says research needs to be boring?

These are my tv time doodles, scribbled with a ball point pen on bond paper. I suppose it’s completely uncool to mention that I got into a whole side trip thinking about the nature of atoms and light while I was waiting for commercials to end, isn’t it? Ah well, that’s just part of my perennial nature of contemplating stuff that really isn’t going to get me anywhere. I also like drawing flowers. Seems like that would’ve made so much more sense to post for “perennial”, doesn’t it?



Friday, July 15, 2011

"Gesture"

In the olden days, polite people made their rounds to each other’s homes and left calling cards with the servants who answered the doors. The lady of the house wouldn’t be home since she would likewise be making rounds leaving calling cards at other people’s houses. What a civilized gesture, and such a waste of time. If you really want to visit someone, why not show up when they might be home? Oh, right, because you shouldn’t expect to be entertained when you show up unexpectedly. That of course would be most uncivilized.

The relative beauty and expense of your calling card was just a part of the civilization game. If you had a really boring card, you must be either boring, or poor, or possibly really secure with yourself. If you had an extra fancy card, you must be interesting, or rich, or possibly really insecure with yourself. Odds are you probably had a card that fell somewhere in between, which added to the whole guessing game of where you fell into the perpetual pecking order.

This is all very quaint, outdated, and slightly disturbing. It’s a good thing our society has changed since then, right? Maybe not. We might slightly envy the elaborate dresses the fine ladies wore on their useless calling card rounds, but we also now know that they were being sucked in with bone crushing whale bone corsets and wore really impractical shoes. It’s much better to sit around in a t-shirt and leave a message on a girlfriend’s answering machine. I just wish we still had the manservant to listen to the messages and serve us tea.

Society really hasn’t changed very much. We just changed the rules. I go to your blog, you come to mine, I go to yours… it’s all very friendly and enjoyable, albeit with less fresh air than our ancestors got in the buggy ride from house to house. It’s all very civilized. Yep, very courteous and friendly, and I have to admit I really love doing it.

Sometimes visiting blogs is like visiting somebody’s house that has plants everywhere and toys in the yard and odd sculptures hanging from the ceiling. Sometimes it’s like going to the finest mansion in town and feeling kind of awed by what we find hanging on the walls. Sometimes we find out that our neighbors speak a different language or live in grass huts or igloos. It’s all really, really cool. Maybe even more importantly, we find out that there are a lot of nice and interesting people in the world, and we’re lucky to meet them.

These are calling cards I kept when cleaning out my grandma’s house. Maybe my grandma knew who Wm. Clouser was, and who he wanted to “Accept my Love”? The peacock fan is glued at the bottom and bends down to reveal Wm.’s name. Charlie Barro apparently thought that was a good idea with his disembodied hand offering a bouquet of roses “With love and fond wishes”. I wonder who he was trying to impress? Since neither of these men made it into my family tree, why were their cards kept all of these years? Were my ancestors heart breakers or heartbroken?

I scanned in the prettier cards in my collection. Others are simply script fonts engraved on heavy cards, but I like my great-great-grandmother’s card because she was studying penmanship, and that’s her actual writing – which goes to the point of why I keep these things I guess. They were in real people’s hands before they put on their gloves for the buggy ride.

Since it’s Illustration Friday, I put my own business card on top. I feel like I’m cheating a since I posted this hawk last year, but sometimes isn’t it the gesture that counts?

Friday, July 8, 2011

"Stay"

My family drove past a mostly frozen lake in early spring. A doe and her fawn were crossing the thawing ice, but the ice broke and the mother fell into the freezing water. She thrashed and splashed her way to firmer ice and scrambled up, but the fawn was stranded on the far side of the open water. It was too far for the doe to swim back, and she stood on the ice in an agony of separation. The fawn skittered around on the brittle ice, but wouldn’t attempt to swim to his mother.

I can’t remember exactly how we rescued the fawn. I do remember getting long branches just in case Dad fell in. Maybe my sister was sent across the ice because she weighed less than Dad? The important thing was that we rescued the baby and found a tiny barn to put him in. My Mom and extra siblings went inside a big building, but one sister, our Dad, and I stayed in the shed.

I can’t remember how we got the shaman either, but if someone could find one, that would be my Dad. The old man came into the tiny barn after the sun was down and saw my sister and I playing with the baby. He laid out some interesting things on a rough table and told us to quit taming the deer. I was given the job of keeping it quiet, but told not to make friends with it. My sister and Dad sang and chanted with the shaman according to his directions.

It’s a pretty sing song cadence in American Indian prayers. The shaman rocked back and forth with his eyes closed, but my sister’s bright eyes took everything in while she played her part in the song. Dad seemed controlled and focused, and I held the fawn in place with the negative magnetism of my hands. Nobody told me how to do it. I just knew that my hands had energy to make him stay without touching. I was very serious about it.

This went on a long time. I had a lot of time to look at the fawn’s spots, eyes, ears, tail, feet, fur… I was lulled into the chant and both asleep and ultra alert at the same time. The fawn eventually laid down in the straw, and I sat beside him in the glow of the Coleman lantern.

I don’t know what nation the shaman was from (maybe Iroquois?), and I definitely didn’t know his language. Just the melodic syllables repeating in choruses, dried plants smoking in the air, waving feathers, more smoke, more singing, with the flute and a drum in between.

It could’ve gone on forever, but the doe appeared at last in the light cast through the open doorway. She was too nervous to enter, but the fawn knew she was there and stood up. The shaman gave me a nod, and I released him to his mother. They stood in the light for a moment and looked at the shaman before sliding into the dark woods.

The next day, I looked at a map and realized how far the doe had to travel to get around that huge lake. There were many inlets, and her path wasn’t easy. It’s no wonder it took so many hours for her to find her way to us.

I had a relationship with a shaman many, many years later. When I told him about this experience, I admitted that I always felt jealous my sister got to sing and pray for the doe’s return. He responded, “Did it ever occur to you that you were given the harder job?” Well, no, it hadn’t. But I like that idea, and feel very privileged to have had a place where I could observe magic.

This scratchboard art is small, 3 ¼” x 2”, but then, the fawn was small.

Friday, July 1, 2011

"Remedy"

We often hang onto things that aren’t good for us. It can be a physical thing like Grandma’s broken figurine, but the really damaging things are the thoughts and feelings we keep in our mental basement. It’s like keeping asbestos. It’s not good for us, will eventually kill us, but we’re so used to having it we don’t bother to throw it away – or maybe we’re even afraid to throw it away without a HazMat suit? I dreamt of sending this garbage down the river in paper boats, one paper boat per person or situation, and the boats bobbed on the water in a long line, disappearing around a bend in the river. Seemed like an excellent “remedy” to put into reality.

First, I had to remember how to make a paper boat...

#1 Get an 8 ½” x 11” piece of paper.
#2 Fold it in half. Ooh! A different pattern on the back side! I’m thinking darkness one side, letting in the sun on the other.
#3 Fold the corners down to the middle.
#4 Fold up the leftovers on both sides. Now you have a paper hat.
#5 Stick your fingers inside and squash your paper hat into a diamond.
#6 Fold up the point on both sides.
#7 Put your fingers inside again and squash it into a diamond again.
#8 Pull the tips apart, and presto! You have a paper boat.

Next, I had to identify how many boats I needed. I wondered, could I put Monica, Mark, and Sylvia on one boat, or did I need a separate boat for each of them? Could I make one boat for each repeat offender, or did I need a boat for each situation? It seems like an awful lot of boats to make, and just the idea of it makes me feel too tired to start folding, but it also seems like labor is a meditative thing in itself and worth doing. I’ll try not to think about littering up the river with a ream of paper.

I spent my morning fooling around with this concept, and it dawned on me to make boats like I did when I was a kid. Mom doled out paper like it was a precious commodity, so I made do with bark and leaves and other things I found along the side of the river, saving my paper for important stuff like drawing. I put flowers and bugs on my boats and sent them off with my best wishes to Lake Erie.

Mom will howl about how paper is expensive when she reads this, and say she was virtuously thrifty, probably with a side rant about my niece wasting paper after one line when she doesn’t like that line. Let’s make a boat for that too. We don’t have to remind Mom that I like making boats or point out I’m the one who bought my niece paper so she wouldn’t have to justify her creative pursuit of excellence.

All this garbage clutters my mind. It can be little stuff like Mom’s rants about waste, or it can be big things like getting stabbed in the back, or stabbed in the front for that matter. It’s all drifting down the river, around the bend, and out of sight.

Where Go the Boats?
By Robert Louis Stevenson

Dark brown is the river.
Golden is the sand.
It flows along for ever,
With trees on either hand.

Green leaves a-floating,
Castles of the foam,
Boats of mine a-boating –
Where will all come home?

On goes the river
And out past the mill,
Away down the valley,
Away down the hill.

Away down the river,
A hundred miles or more,
Other little children
Shall bring my boats ashore