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

Good designs sell –
my designs sell out!

Saturday, February 17, 2018

"House"

The closest park to my house has a pool and ball fields and too many yelling kids.  There's a tiny pond with an arching bridge and half the geese in NE Ohio, so you know even when the grass isn't green there's enough green goose poop to keep things colorful.  People like to take wedding and prom pictures by the sculpted gardens and fountains.  The police station and city hall are on the property which makes me feel over disciplined even if the only thing I'm doing is walking the dog.  Even the sculpted gardens feels overly disciplined.

The next park is a golf course so I don't think that really counts, but the park after that has actual trees and wildlife.  I like that park, but it's just far enough away to drive, and such a short drive feels wasteful.  My new exercise goal is to not only walk to the park, but to actually walk it too.  I'm either going to get healthier or have a cardiac arrest.

Maybe I should point out I live downhill from everything except Lake Erie.  This means I have to walk up 2 fairly significant hills just to get to the first park.  If I ever achieve my goal of getting to the nature park, there's 2 significant hills within the park.  The last time I walked up that second hill I stood at the top with spots in my eyes.  Uh uh uh ugh.

Yesterday, I decided the weather was crappy enough I could justify only walking the first hill, but all this stupid exercise made me feel energetic enough to walk up the second too.  Then, oh why not, I'll walk a bit more.  The freezing Canadian wind chilled by the frozen lake whipped my face raw but I persevered.  I got to the next stop on my exercise plan and saw the sign for the good park in the distance.  I turned around and walked home with the frozen wind whipping my other cheek.  It took hours to feel warm again.  My shoulders hurt.  Since when does walking make shoulders ache?

Sadly, I think walking some more might help.  Stupid exercise.  There's some sort of built in addictive process involved.  I wasn't even interested in dinner afterwards.  Unlike some of you people, I'm obviously a reluctant exerciser.  I just want miraculous physical ability without wasting my time and effort.

I'm trying to keep things interesting so I don't lose interest and give up.  The word for the week was blue not long ago.  I looked for blue things on my walk.  Now I look for other colors too.  I noticed a house with pink shutters and awnings for sale.  I looked up the price when I got home ($116,000).  I amused myself by imagining a little old lady living there.  Another house looks like it's been split into 4 or more apartments with adjoining decks.  I imagined some excellent deck parties.  The garage for someone else's house looks about the size of my entire house.  I figured out the comparison and it is.

It occurs to me that all this stupid exercise has some benefits beyond my ability to walk up hills and endure weather.  With nothing else to do other than try to avoid a heart attack, my mind is going places it hasn't gone in a long time.  Fantasy, math, and observation are as essential to the creative life as a paintbrush.  We need quiet time to hear things in our minds.  The act of creation is a physical activity.  It can help to actually live in our bodies instead of just our heads.  I'm going to keep looking at houses and making up stories for the people who live in them.

Friday, February 9, 2018

"Olympics"

My first grade class was meekly herded into the gym for a school assembly.  We obediently stayed put in our designated spot while the older classes monkeyed around.  An older girl did a cartwheel in front of us.  I was flabbergasted.  Forget the flagrant disobedience, what would possess that child to put her head at risk by jumping around upside down like that?!!

I asked my girlfriend if she had ever seen such a thing.  She had.  "Can you do it too?"  She got up and did a shaky cartwheel.  I was awed.  I had no idea my girlfriend could defy gravity.  The older girl came back and did 3 perfect cartwheels in a row.  I felt like a backwoods hick who didn't know city tricks.  (Keep in mind, these kids also lived in the boondocks.  They just weren't quite as deeply buried in the woods.)

When at home again, I told Sis1 about this amazing feat of daring.  She knew about cartwheels, but had never tried to do them before.  She gave it a try, then several tries.  She sort of had the idea, but not the actual knack.  Sis2 came home and quickly mastered it.  I got off the grass and tried too.

Eventually, all of us mastered it.  I thought that was enough gymnastics to last a lifetime, but Sis1 enjoyed athletic things.  She started coming home with more ideas of things for us to practice.  I managed to bend over backwards until I could put my hands on the ground, then I eventually managed to get my legs over too.  I walked the railroad ties next to the driveway and pretended it was a balance beam.  The Olympics gave us ideas for more balance beam tricks.  I found a nice broken tree in the woods so I could swoop my legs further down than on the railroad ties.  I did forward and backwards somersaults on that tree too.

Sis1 often spotted me during some of the more difficult maneuvers.  If she wasn't around, I might get a concussion.  I decided gymnastics was stupid, but by the time I got to middle school gymnastics were required.  Those city kids had been collecting more sophisticated tricks in the intervening years too.  I eyed the parallel bars with the same mistrust as I had felt when witnessing my first cartwheel.

I was out in my back yard a few weeks ago when I had a random thought about cartwheels.  Could I still do one?  I almost gave it a shot, but my rational mind quickly shut down that idiocy.  My 5-year-old and 50-something brains are in complete agreement about the rules of my body's verticality and risk.  Perhaps I'll watch some of the Olympics from the safe harbor of my couch.

My wish for this year's Olympics is that North and South Koreans build positive relationships with each other.  I also hope their combined team wins something together creating hope for that region and for the rest of the world.

Friday, February 2, 2018

"Mythology"

The Greek gods were so human.  I love them.  They make me feel so superior, while lazily avoiding life-threatening quests.  If you have kids, you've probably seen Rick Riordan's Percy Jackson books.  I like the way Rick captures the humanity of the gods: haughty, selfish, spoiled, sexual, jealous, vain, and every other elevated and base emotion.  Rick also wrote about Roman and Egyptian gods, but they just don't speak to me at the same level.  They're more into law and order and being god-like.  The Greeks were just plain raunchy and fun.

The latest book I'm reading is Drawing Blood by Molly Crabapple.  I think she would have a hell of a good time with the Greek gods.  She supported herself in art school by posting risqué photos of herself online, nude modeling, and dancing.  She got into burlesque entertainment, which strongly influenced the subjects in her art.  She's also into social activism and travel.  It's an interesting read with interesting art.  I'm surprised I found it at my small and conservative local library.

Molly writes of her struggles to make it in the art world.  She's finding success by paving her own path and excellently using social media.  Good for her.  Her energy makes me feel ancient and tired.  Like I said, I want to be lazy and avoid quests.  After all, I've been on my art quest longer than Molly and have had more fights with Gorgons.  Sometimes a successful quest is continuing to put one foot after the other.

I like Molly's expressive style, but I've been in an ultra realistic mood lately.  I sometimes wonder why I'm doing it since nobody will pay me enough for the time I spend on these things, but it's what my heart wants to do right now.  One thing I've discovered is that when I fight what I want to do nothing good happens.  It's like my internal creativity seizes up.  Maybe there's a good reason for me to contemplate the end of a toothbrush?  Maybe Molly will inspire me to use it to flick more paint on a canvas?

The art I've been making for me lately has been art therapy.  I need the realism to make me slow down and really think about things.  This painting is the result of a challenge someone gave me to paint something just for fun.  I didn't look very far for the subject.  It's just stuff in my desk drawer.  At some point I started thinking all I was doing was exposing my messes and hanging them on a wall instead of hiding them in the drawer.  I had to push through my reluctance to finish it, and now I'm happily self-satisfied that I did.  I'm also thinking it was just a gentler therapy than the last couple of paintings.  Exposing our internal messes can make our work (and ourselves) more interesting.  The real myth these days is that everyone should put on a perfect, photoshopped face to the world.

I'm also noticing that I'm not being as nitpicky as I was in the past.  I painted my eraser very quickly.  If you stop to look at it, you can see I didn't fuss it to death.  Yet, I kept trying to pick it up once it was painted.  That's plenty realistic enough.

I've got an illustration project due next week.  I think I'll do some Molly-inspired paint splatters on that.  There's room for everything and all creative expression is good.

Sunday, January 28, 2018

"Blue"

When I was a feral wolf child in the woods, I spent my days really looking at things.  I stared a dragonfly in the eyes while it glared back at me.  I looked at a crawdad's feet, not just the pinchy big claws, but all the little claws on the skinny legs too.  I touched the spiny fur of its shell.  I noticed how algae sways with the river current and how water bugs scamper across the water surface.  I listened to the birds singing and found the softest moss bed in the forest.

Why do we let this world of wonder belong only to children?  Not that kids today have the requisite infinite boredom to explore the world so minutely.  It seems nobody makes moss curl up with a finger touch anymore.

The other day I was entranced by the vivid blues and purples of my snowy world.  I started feeling like I "ought to" paint what spread before my eyes.  Thinking about what I "should do" takes away the beauty and just becomes a chore.  I decided not to paint the colors and watched the fat snowflakes fall.  It seemed like the absolute best way to spend my time.

The snow melted and the sun came out.  In the brief moment of sunshine between weather fronts, I walked to the store, a distance just far enough away to be discouraging, about 1 1/2 miles away.  I saw the word "blue" before taking my walk and decided to pay attention to blue things in my world: blue sky, blue jay, blue signs, blue dumpsters, blue trash on the side of the street, blue cars, blue coats.  Oddly, there aren't any blue houses.  Around here it seems they are only white or brick, except for one gray house and 2 beiges.  Nonconformists.  My house is both white and brick so I've clearly adapted to my environment.

I got up and refilled my glass from my blue water pitcher and noticed my next door neighbor's blue house with a blue appliance repair van in the driveway.  Okay, even when I'm trying to pay attention to my world the obvious can escape me.

I think this is really the point though.  How often do we really look around?  If we're zipping around in cars or glued to our hand-held devices, all those blue signs go by without notice.  Why would we notice blue dumpsters?  How long has it been since they replaced the industrial green, banged up dumpsters in the business parking lots?

I walked past a woman in a blue nursing home uniform.  She didn't look up from her phone.  Hey!  Let's interact!  Join me in the real world instead of just the virtual one!  Of course I didn't say that.  I just felt a little lonely for both of us.  Everybody is endlessly talking, but nobody is really saying anything.

I'm going to make an effort to take daily walks and to pay more attention to the world around me, not because I "should", but because it makes me happier than vegetating in front of the computer.  Who knows what other kinds of things are out there waiting to be noticed?

Friday, January 19, 2018

"5"

Sometimes I write some tips for artists, but it occurred to me today that tips for artists are really tips for anyone who looks at art.  We can appreciate images more when we understand more of what the artist intended.  The week's prompt is "5".  I'm pretty sure everyone sees and understands 5 hash marks here.  Maybe you notice I put 5-petaled flowers in the background.  Extra points if you notice the vertical lines are also in clusters of 5.  Each element reinforces the message 5 and adds more visual interest for the viewer.


In 1793, Jacques-Louis David painted "La Mort de Marat" (The Death of Marat).  In some ways, it looks like a comparatively simple painting for David.  The image is powerful, even if we don't know the first thing about Marat.  However, this painting speaks across language barriers and our ignorance.

Forget everything anyone else has ever taught you about looking at art.  What do you see?  How do you feel?  Whatever any of the professionals tell you, how you feel about a piece of art is the final word about whether or not a painting is great or not.

Once you've acknowledged your emotional reaction to the painting, consider the points I made about my 5 brushes.  Even though I assume you don't know who Marat was, do you see repeated themes in the painting that are giving you clues?  I would guess that you notice multiple papers, ink, and quills.  Perhaps your eyes go to the large background?  Maybe you notice the drapery falls as the hero's arm is falling?  The bloody knife is on the floor while the dying man's hands hold a paper and a pen; this isn't a suicide.

Let me tell you that Marat was a radical journalist during the French Revolution.  Now what do you think?  Does it change how you feel about the painting?  I can also tell you he was an ugly man with a debilitating skin condition which caused him to wrap vinegar saturated cloth to his head while he soaked in medicinal baths.  A board was placed on the tub so he could continue writing.  Charlotte Corday, a royalist woman, stabbed him for his political activism.  She was tried and executed for the murder.

Considering Marat was a remarkably unattractive man, David gave him a hero's death.  He used the traditions of Jesus and the saints' martyrdoms for a journalist with serious and smelly health problems.  The drapery falls with the dying man's arm.  The light and shadows move forward.  So much is expressed in such a beautiful way, for a crime scene which was anything but beautiful.

For artists, this painting is also a reminder not to get too trapped by reality.  David was true to life in setting the scene by using the green cloth and the packing box by the tub, but his idealism created an image far different than an ugly man dying in a bloody tub.  We're reminded of what the man did in his life.

What do you want to convey?  How can you use repetitions of a theme to carry your message?

Saturday, January 13, 2018

"Guitar"

My guitar has butterflies.  This pleases me.  I hope my butterflies don't die in the case from neglect.  Guitars sound better when they're actually played instead of propped in a corner gathering dust.  I'm not a great player, but I'm pretty sure my guitar would prefer inexpert attention than none at all.

Let me apologize again for presidential insults of people and countries with pigment, US allies, or geez, everybody who isn't blonde and Norwegian this week.  What happened to 1960s "make love not war" ideals sung around campfires?  I leaked tears when I listened to this Seeker's version.  I'd like to blame that on menopausal hormones, but I'm just in touch with an earnest wish for a better world.  We should all sing by more campfires.

I refuse to give up my idealism.  We each make the world better with every kind action and word, and even the negatives around us are a chance to learn and make things right.  For instance, this week I've learned the continent of Africa is thriving.  It's far more than famine and AIDS.  Haiti is more than a hurricane disaster zone.  45's "s***hole" comments pushed the media to tell us some positives for a change.  Yay!  Tell us more!

I've complained about public tv's seemingly endless shows about multiculturalism.  It feels racist to complain, but I feel like they're beating me with a stick about an issue with which I'm already agreeable.  Stop lecturing me!  It's like sad puppies or starving children charity ads.  I care about puppies and children, but I'd much rather see something about how a donation results in happy, healthy children/puppies.  Stop miring us in negatives.  Teach us about positives.  Teach us how to get to the positives.

The truth is, we're attracted to negatives.  A traumatic, abusive bond with someone can be far more enduring than a loving relationship, but time with an abuser is time that wasn't spent with someone loving.  Lately I've noticed on my antenna tv there are 2 stations devoted to murder 24 hrs/day, not to mention the other stations' murder shows.  I'm sure cable tv must be far worse.  We're rapt with attention over disasters, abuse, and strife, and media outlets will continue to offer this kind of thing because it keeps our viewership better than "good" subjects.  It takes effort maintaining positivity in a negative world, but I'm convinced it's worth the effort because surrounding ourselves with good people and experiences leads to happier lives for everyone.

I met a young woman outside a store where we were both waiting.  We discovered we shared a birthday that day.  I told her she was pretty.  She was taken aback that I'd say something nice, and then worried I was hitting on her.  I laughed and said I like boys.  We chatted and laughed some more for maybe 15 minutes before we left in different directions, never to see each other again, but with positive memories.

It was such a simple thing.  She was pretty, and nice too.  She was pleasant to talk with when I was burning time.  One small action that didn't cost me anything for a young, black woman who told me she needed a kind word that day.  My bit for race relations might be a helpful memory for her when she listens to racist comments.

Haters get more coverage than the majority of people who don't share those views.  What if all of us who care about others make more effort to say nice things to each other?  Open doors, treat people like people, express some curiosity about them?  Listen to their stories, or just smile?

Kumbaya...

Friday, January 5, 2018

"A"


I can't swear that I didn't reuse some words in this piece.  I tried to pay attention, but proofreading isn't one of my better skills.  I took this week's prompt as a test of how many A words I could think up.  I'll admit I started cheating, but sometimes getting a word off the computer reminded me of quite a few more words lurking in my mind.  I also remembered words that I couldn't define.  I can't really explain why I'd know a word exists without knowing how to use it.  I'm not sure I'll ever really understand my own brain, but I continue to look at it as an interesting object worth studying.

I started another painting, but it isn't far enough along to show it to you yet.  Instead, let's look back at the year that was.


I'm reminded that I've spent much of the last year obsessed with the news.  I try to ignore it, but I can't.  Sometimes my obsession leaked into my posts.  I tried to keep that at a minimum because I like to get along and share happier thoughts.  Some of the things I wrote about in the last year feel like they happened a super long time ago.  Did I testify in court in February?!  I'm pretty sure that was at least 5 or 6 years ago.  Went to the cheese factory with Bro2?  That had to be in some other year too.  Some things feel so immediate I can't believe they happened months ago.  I'm also reminded of things that I didn't discuss but were seeping through the tone of my posts.

I lost 3 friends in 2017.  Two died, one was very old, one was too young.  The third friend is just going in a different direction with different values and priorities than me.  It happens.  It's sad.  I wish him well.  I found out another friend died a couple of years ago.  I hadn't kept up with him, but I'd kept him in my heart.  Even though he died a while ago the fact of his death is new to me.  I'm feeling my own mortality.

I ranted about wildlife more than is seemly, which is ironic coming from a life-long environmentalist.  I even married a professional environmentalist at one time.  That was a mistake, but hey, live and learn.  My deer and groundhogs are safe from my murderous thoughts, still brimming over with glossy health.  I expect they'll demolish this year's garden and I'll probably complain about it.

I wrote a book.  I even sent out a number of query letters to publishers.  I still think the book should be published, but I didn't send enough queries.  I just collapsed on my momentum.  I mean really, I already devoted all that time writing the thing.  Why do I have to put in energy to sell it?  Besides, it's a non-fiction effort on a topic I want to forget (working for Religion).  I'm adjusting my attitude about this starting next week.

I painted this year, real paintings that I'm proud of myself for creating.  I did some illustrations for magazines.  That felt good.  Sometimes I wrote about making art too.

Mostly, I think the past year was focused on decluttering my mind, pulling out past issues that never seem to die and trying to find a new way forward, taking time to breathe and evaluate what really matters to me.  I've spent a lot of time studying better ways to accomplish these goals too.  I'm pretty sure those topics will come up in some future posts.

Wishing everyone a happy, successful, productive 2018!