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 27, 2013


Yay!  Illustration Friday is back in action!  I reflect all the time, this post ought to be easy, right?  (That's usually about the time when everything starts getting hard, isn't it?)  I deleted my reflections on divorce and dating, contemplated wrinkles, thought about reposting my post about narcissism... Maybe reflecting is something I spend too much time contemplating?

In art, reflections are a funny thing, and most people get them wrong.  Perhaps one of the best lessons I learning in painting class is that there should be some of every color in your painting in all of the objects you're painting.  Just the idea of that opened my world to more possibilities and definitely improved my appreciation of the masters' work.

For instance, You've painted a backdrop with Alizarin Crimson in it.  You paint Aunt Becky in front of it.  The pinks of her cheeks should include Alizarin Crimson so she looks like she's actually living in the setting you've given her.  You've painted Uncle Dave in front of something Ultramarine Blue.  Uncle Dave's 5:00 shadow, or maybe the shadows in his ears, should have some Ultramarine Blue.  Or, sometimes just to keep things interesting use the exact opposite color.  Your mind understands oppositions.

One of the biggest mistakes I see people making these days is treating the object of a painting separate from its surroundings so that object feels like it's floating on a page.  Your object needs something to ground it.  A shadow helps a lot.  Reflecting colors from the ground will ground it more.

This painting is from the era when I was learning such things.  When my painting teacher told me to put orange in the blue bowl, my jaw was tight with irritation.  No way!  Orange doesn't belong on a blue object, and you're just messing with my head!  But there's nothing like a challenge, and I put orange everywhere.  More orange than necessary to tell the truth, but it served as a good lesson.  I loved learning from Mr. Larrabee.

Another thing about reflections is that they come hard or soft.  The highlights on the purple ball in this painting are very white against the dark purple.  That means it's a really shiny object.  The reflections on the ceramic pot are more subtle because the finish of the pot wasn't as shiny.  The reflections on the wooden bowl are most subtle because it wasn't shiny at all.

When you do something metallic, put your darkest blacks next to your whitest whites in the front of the object.  Let those oppositions get more subtle the farther away they are from the viewer.  I have a lot of fun with metallic things.

Here's to hoping that everyone either makes art or appreciates it in the coming year.  Wishing everyone the happiest year yet in 2014!

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Happy Holiday!

It's Saturday, it's cold and rainy outside, and I'm ready to do another blog post.  However, no word for the week yet.  Refresh the illustrationfriday.com site...  pfft, still no new word.  There's nothing really to do except take the initiative and start blogging anyway, letting you in on my rambling thoughts and activities...

Happy solstice to everyone!  This means the days will get longer for everyone north of the equator.  Yay!  Tomorrow will be 1 minute longer than today!  Yay!  Oh yeah, and happy Christmas and merry Kwanza and joyful whatever other holiday you might choose to celebrate this time of year.  May you spend this time with people you like, with good and plentiful food.

My brother got 2 large, frozen turkeys from his work last night.  I would happily stick one of them in the oven, but I think I just mentioned they're frozen.  Sigh, delayed gratification again.  I got together with friends for lunch today and had a very happy conversation about books.  I stopped at my usual neighborhood store and laughed a lot with the owners while we contemplated the coming extra minute of light.

People in other departments at work were overheard complaining about that contractor whom I complained about in my post last week.  I feel some vindication, and I'm happy that my part of the project is finally coming together.  I'm abandoning ship this week and will let them fight it out without me while I hope to take some long-overdue time off.  I'll still have work to do at home, but I can do it in sweats and messy hair.

In other words, my world is in a good place in this particular moment.  I don't have any real plans, and I don't really want to make any.  I've hit the refresh button on the IF site a couple more times, and am starting to contemplate that 2' x 4' canvas I bought a couple months ago.  Or maybe another jigsaw puzzle.  Or I could finish the book I've been reading, A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness.  It's a good book, but I have to admit the idea of yet another book or movie with a vampire in it is irritating me, and I'm more irritated that I'm enjoying the book anyway.

I did this art for a customer who failed to fully appreciate my efforts since they didn't buy it.  I'll admit it's a bad scan, but in my attempt to relax I'm going to go with the file at hand without looking for the original.  Besides, I'm having computer problems, and generally grouchy about software engineers making my life harder than it needs to be, not to mention that the lack of an IF word caused me to do actual work instead of blogging this afternoon.  Oh well, a little less to do this week?

I could go on a side rant about how trying to have Christmas spirit is too much pressure and not enough fun, but sometimes the holidays are fun, and maybe this is your year to have everything you want?

My dog thinks it's tv time and I should quit typing.  I'm thinking about that very nice bottle of wine my boss gave me too.  Maybe sometimes it's perfectly wonderful just to ramble about nothings without any actual point?

Wishing everyone happiness this holiday!

Saturday, December 14, 2013


A saw a woman die.  We were in a large room with a lot of people when she slid down her chair and fell on the floor.  The paramedics were there in no time, and my companion took a potty break while the evening's activities were sidetracked by the medical drama.  While she was gone I tried to tune into what was going on with the old lady.  I was close enough to see activity without details, and not close enough to hear anything. 

It looked like they were going to load her up and take her to the hospital when I "saw" her spirit leave her body.  It was like a white, twisting mist that pulled away and zipped out the open door.  My companion ran into the room and whispered "Did you see that?!  She just died!"  We both "saw" that white wisp.

I don't know how to explain seeing something invisible, or why a spirit would twist out of a body like that, or why it would go out a doorway when a spirit shouldn't need doorways anymore.  There's a whole lot of things that I don't understand at all.

Somebody sent around an email a while ago that asked a bunch of questions intended to make us all get to know each other better.  One of the questions was "Have you ever seen someone die?"  I was surprised how many people said yes.  Have you?  Did it change what you think of dying and/or the afterlife?

Seeing that old lady's spirit was an affirmation to me that there is more to life that what we see around us, that something survives the body.

This topic reminds me a lot of work since I work for Religion, but I value my job sufficiently to keep my endless questions to myself.  I remember how many times I got in trouble when I was little for all my whys and hows and whats, and I know I'll never change.  I'll always ask questions.

In a conversation with a religious person over a project I was told, "Quit thinking so much.  Put your experience on the back burner.  Just trust the process."  Them's fighting words, and the project is making me insane.  Let me vent a little...

Recently, I've had a couple of contractors repeatedly refuse to follow directions.  This floors me.  What happened to "the customer is always right"?  I've worked on plenty of projects where I thought the customer was dead wrong, said so, then did what they wanted -- sometimes finding out their way wasn't so awful after all.  (Though sometimes it was.)

Have I just gotten unlucky recently, or do you think this kind of refusal amongst designers is a trend?  Do you think perhaps it's because we've lost studios where other artists saw and critiqued each other's work?  Because software knowledge trumps design?

I'm really curious about what other people think on this, and if anyone has learned ways to deal with it.

Saturday, December 7, 2013


I used to look at my bedroom ceiling and mentally measure the uneven spaces between the dark wood beams that slanted upwards to 15' on one side.  I'd contemplate the texture of the wood grain in each beam and the diseased white paint between each.  It was a humid disaster in the Glen, so Dad covered the paint with acoustic ceiling tiles.  Then I contemplated the textures of the ceiling tiles instead.

I was bed-ridden more than once as a kid, and we didn't have TV when I was really young.  That didn't leave much more to do than study ceiling tiles and beams.  I listened to my heart beat and my breath go in and out, then decided to see how few breaths and heart beats I really needed.  Thdump, thdump became baa... dumm.  Baa... dumm.  In ever widening spaces between each.  I think I accidentally discovered Yogic methods of meditation and healing.

Mom likes to say that boredom is good for kids.  It forces them to amuse themselves, even to the exquisite boredom of slowing down heartbeats.  I counted the dimples in the ceiling tiles and learned to count even through my dreams, waking up and finding the time on the clock with radioactive numbers was exactly what I expected it to be.

Sometimes I miss that kind of boredom.  Not in a way of actually wanting to be that bored again, but missing the control I had over myself.  It's harder for me now to pay attention to the times when I need to slow down the pattern of my breathing, and I can't slow my heart like I did back then.  As we get older, it seems more and more like life happens to us instead of creating it as we go along.

When we learn something for the first time, we don't know that we learned to do something hard or impossible.  When we're older, someone has already told us that you can't do that kind of thing so we probably won't try, or we give up too easily because we don't expect it to work anyway.  Or we have already figured out that there's absolutely no value in counting dimples in ceiling tiles.

Sometimes I think art is the same kind of thing.  Exquisite boredom and focus in a world of possibilities and mysteries.  For me, the joy of art is the process, and sometimes I'm happy to have something pleasant to hang on a wall afterwards.  People who buy art are buying an experience.

I often make patterns when I'm stressed.  It's more useful than examining ceilings, plus I end up with patterns to put in the backgrounds of other things.  I had a job that actually paid me for doing that kind of thing too.  Some of my old clients still carry my designs.  I swear I should've gotten royalties for this stuff.  I'm  only taking credit for the good designs on this site, and I still bemoan this company's product shots.

If you're interested in the production side of things, I created the page of patterns for Williams & Bennett to show how the patterns of a 5-high tower of gift boxes would look in either red or green backgrounds and with metallic gold ink.

Saturday, November 30, 2013


My Girl Scout troop sang in public a lot.  We went to the mall when that was new, and a pretty woman gave us hot cider and candy.  I liked singing, and liked it even more when I got candy.  I’m sure we were adorable.  People smiled a lot.  The newspaper printed our performances and names.  It’s too bad the media doesn’t do more of that kind of feel-good stuff these days.

I was feeling semi-professional by the time we were sent to the nursing home.  We knew our song list and had it down pat.  I happily went off to “cheer up the old people”.  I liked old people, so cheering them up was fine with me.  Besides, old people were usually good for some cookies.

The nursing home was a low, dark building.  It was hidden behind trees because nobody really wants to look at old people or to be reminded that we’re all going to get old someday.  Once you’re sent there, you’re just waiting to die.  I knew that.  My great grandpa got sent to one when he was really old and he didn’t last very long after that.

Inside was dark too.  It took me a minute for my eyes to dilate and see my surroundings, and I gasped when I did.  Old men were lined up in wheelchairs in the dark, ratty lap afghans were clutched by arthritic hands – if they had hands.  Crippled feet were tied to footrests – if they had feet.  Their heads hung listlessly and slobber dripped on their shoulders.  Their eyes were blank, or ashamed, or missing.

It was a nursing home for WWI vets.  I knew about war because Viet Nam was going on.  I knew people could die, but I didn’t know about this.  I tried to tame my sick stomach while we were arranged in front of the broken men.  I tried not to cry.  I didn’t want them to know they made me sick, that I was glad the nursing home was hidden from regular people having regular lives.

One old man sat in his chair and watched us.  He and another man seemed like the only ones actually living in reality.  He gave a little smile, and I sang just to him.  I couldn’t bear to look at the others.

WWI is so much ancient history now, and it was back then too.  Was it worth wrecking those men’s lives?  Was Viet Nam worth it?  Afghanistan?  WWI created the circumstances that created WWII.  WWII victors drew arbitrary borders in the Middle East, which created ongoing wars there.  Nothing good comes from wars except making the rich richer, and in my opinion, they’re already rich enough.  My life experiences made me a life-long, non-apologetic pacifist.

I’m upset Congress plans to wreck Obama’s deal with Iran, just because it’s a deal that Obama arranged.  They hate him beyond any kind of reasonable discussion.  Idiots like John McCain want to live in a constant state of war and don’t want to negotiate with anyone, but there’s no reason to have another war in Iran.

Iran will develop nuclear energy whether we like it or not.  Making a deal with Iran to oversee and limit that development is only good.  War is stupid and the price is too high.  Maybe we should send all those old men in Congress to the nursing home?

The refrain from The Ballad of Billy Jack

Go ahead and hate your neighbor
Go ahead and cheat a friend
Do it in the name of Heaven
You can justify it in the end
There won't be any trumpets blowing
Come the judgment day
On the bloody morning after...
One tin soldier rides away.

I know this is isn’t a great video, and if you’re too young to remember Billy Jack it probably looks stupid, but I’ll admit that watching it made me cry.  Same things then are the same things now.  “Give peace a chance.”

Saturday, November 23, 2013


My Shadow
Robert Louis Stevenson
I have a little shadow that goes in and out with me,
And what can be the use of him is more than I can see.
He is very, very like me from the heels up to the head;
And I see him jump before me, when I jump into my bed.

The funniest thing about him is the way he likes to grow--
Not at all like proper children, which is always very slow;
For he sometimes shoots up taller like an india-rubber ball,
And he sometimes goes so little that there's none of him at all.

He hasn't got a notion of how children ought to play,
And can only make a fool of me in every sort of way.
He stays so close behind me, he's a coward you can see;
I'd think shame to stick to nursie as that shadow sticks to me!

One morning, very early, before the sun was up,
I rose and found the shining dew on every buttercup;
But my lazy little shadow, like an arrant sleepy-head,
Had stayed at home behind me and was fast asleep in bed.

There are moments when I feel like skipping and quoting RLS – and then I remember I’m a grown up and not supposed to skip.  Being an adult sucks.  Sometimes I skip anyway.

A couple of years ago I did a post about drawing shadowsAll that’s still true, so I thought I’d talk about color instead.  It’s really simple.  Colors that are closer to the light source are warm, colors away from the light are cool.  Warm colors are yellower, cool colors are bluer.  Vary that as much as sensible to your heart’s content.

I just saved you a lot of expensive college education.  Donations can be made to me at…

This was a self-portrait I did when I was in college at a time when I thought I would scream if I had to stare at myself for another however many hours.  I asked if the self-portrait had to be my face.  My teacher said “no-ooo” with another one of those looks of “oh crap, what is she thinking of now?”

He was a great teacher, but not such a great painter.  He knew it, and I felt sad for him when he mentioned it.  His paintings were technically perfect, they just weren’t inspired.  I’d see his surprise when I’d do something like painting vibrant colors where they didn’t belong, but he couldn’t seem to get past his studious, analytical nature and have some fun with paint.  I enjoyed making this painting even if it’s not really that good – and isn’t enjoying the process part of being an artist?

Sunday, November 17, 2013


Sometimes I see a word for the week and think “I know just what to do for that one!” – and then my mind won’t cooperate.  I saw “tail” and I thought about white tailed deer nearly going extinct around 1900.  Canadian geese were almost extinct then too, but both species made it back from the brink with flying colors.  It’s hard to find a place in Ohio where you can’t step in green goose poop now and deer are in everybody’s back yard eating gardens and trees.  I made a peacock tail feather in marker, photo, and ImageReady even though it has nothing to do with anything I’ve been thinking about and isn’t really a program that I like working in.  It's like I'm punishing myself through art.
I try to write about happy things, but sometimes life interferes.  Ranting about it doesn't do anybody any good, including me – but it also doesn’t do me any good when someone says “just get over it!”.  Maybe stewing is the best possible thing to do when faced with insoluble problems?  Perhaps stewing helps me discover new solutions?

In a nutshell… I had a job quite a while ago where I was abused in a multitude of ways by multiple people.  After years of trying to put that behind me, I saw one of those people a couple months ago, and then another this weekend.  These sightings brought up old feelings.  My jaw is clenched, and I can’t just will myself to unclench it because as soon as I put it out of my mind my jaw is tight again.  Just wishing away feelings doesn’t make them go away.  I can’t trick myself out of thinking about it.  I’ll dream about it.  I’ll draw peacocks instead of deer.
I understand I can’t get justice in an old, abusive situation.  I understand my internal combustion only injures me.  I recognize that I can’t “just let it go”, and I’m not alone with this kind of thing.  How many of us hang onto old hurts without being able to change what’s already happened?

My friend runs a hypnosis school.  In one of his lessons he said, “Go back to the first time you felt something.  See that first situation in a new way, and all the following instances that made you feel like that will fall down like a line of dominoes.”  I was a test subject for his class, and they took me back to a moment I never would’ve thought still existed in my memories.  It was liberating.  I’m searching for another liberating moment because I don’t want to waste any more of my life thinking about crappy people from the past.

In a way, all we are is our memories.  Past events made us who we are now.  I’ve had wonderful bosses and horrible bosses.  They all taught me, even if some of those lessons only seem to cause hurt when I think of them.  All we can do is take the best out of every situation we live, but I really do wish I could figure out how to “just let it go” when I think of the crappy moments.

Sometimes I think I have everything I need to live my life.  Whatever talent and assets I’ve been given helps me deal with the situations I need to face.  I think that’s true for all of us.  We get different positives to deal with our different negatives.  We just need to trust that it all balances in the final count.

I took a walk with my brother this summer.  The deer are so plentiful and tame they barely care about me taking pictures.  Since the light was fading, they aren’t the best photos, but it was a pleasant time in the park.  Score one positive when I’m thinking of negatives.

What do you do when you are faced with a ghost from the past and bad memories?

Sunday, November 10, 2013


My friend loans me jigsaw puzzles.  We get together every couple of weeks or so and hand off a pretty box of someone else’s art in a restaurant parking lot.  We laugh about how she’s enabling my obsessive compulsive nature.  Sometimes she gets serious and asks if she should quit enabling me, but hey, it’s not like I’m doing drugs.

Doing puzzles lets me decompress and think about stuff.  I play food shows in the background, and between puzzle pieces in my hands, other people cooking stuff I’ll never eat, and vengeful thoughts about people who annoy me, I get around to thinking about things that actually matter.

When I started out as an artist, I sat at a drawing table for many hours a day and had plenty of time to think.  I liked painting painstaking things, and didn’t have to concentrate my full brain on what I was doing 100% of the time.  Eventually the chatter in my mind would die down and I would just be with my art, my hands and mind moving together in a blissful nonthinking.

Computers wrecked my zen time, but I found times where I could get back into it if a project was complicated enough.  Not enough zen time for my real needs, but some.  Now I have a hard time settling down to anything focused except for puzzles, so the parking lot handoffs give me a happiness I used to get at work.  I only get 1000 pieces every couple of weeks so I can’t get too OCD about things.
This week, my friend gave me a puzzle of 999 pieces.  She dismantled her vacuum cleaner to find the missing piece, but wasn’t willing to dismantle a cat to find it.  I made a new piece for her.  The hardest part of making it was cutting it out to fit.

So what’s all this got to do with energy?  In a perfect world, people add something good to each other’s lives.  In this case puzzles, but more than that, my friend is sharing something she enjoys, and in sharing, she gets to share her pleasure in what’s basically a solitary activity.  She’s giving me something beyond a loan of colored cardboard.

She’s very good at giving like this, and part of myself observes from the outside to see how she helps people by giving not what they think they want, but what they actually need.  Too often we think of gifts as things, but real gifts are actions that help us to be better than we were yesterday.

When I first saw “energy” is the word for the week, I thought about psychic vampires who suck energy from others.  Isn’t it better to think about the positive people in our lives instead?  Angry thoughts just kill us faster.  Happy thoughts of gratitude help us live the lives we’re here to live.

My current job has a lot to do with prayers.  It never occurred to me before working there that reading other people’s prayers would change me, but I think it has.  Seeing other people’s suffering reminds me to be grateful for what I have and to look outside of myself to add my prayers to someone else’s heartfelt pleas for help.

In that vein, prayers are appreciated for Mickey who is going through chemotherapy and Danny who is having surgery this week and possibly chemotherapy afterwards.

Sunday, November 3, 2013


I went to a Halloween party and saw a couple of people from high school.  It was funny to talk about now and then, and somewhere along the way I laughed and said “I was a very badly behaved teenager.”  It kind of brought me up short when my old friend said “Yeah, I remember!” with a mixed expression of sternness and amusement.  He was like that back when I was misbehaving too.  I bet he went home with hopes that his kids aren’t me.

It’s odd to know how clearly he remembers my misbehavior, but without knowing that I’ve been a mostly responsible adult.  He just remembers my reckless hedonism.  To make things pinch a little more, he has moved to the little gossipy area where I grew up and has found out that everybody knows everybody else’s business there.  It’s a reminder that there are a whole lot of people who probably remember the follies of my lawless youth.

I laugh and tell people that I went through a wild period.  They just don’t really know what I’m talking about when I say it.  They might think most teenagers miss curfew and break into somebody’s parents’ liquor cabinet.  Maybe they do.  Child’s play.  When I say reckless, lawless, hedonism… well, maybe some of those things should remain secret?

I always seemed to have a duality to my nature, and I kept those parts separate from themselves.  I had goals.  I changed my brothers’ diapers and cooked dinners, did laundry and home repairs, plus whatever else was necessary while my mother worked second shift.  When I wasn’t doing those responsible things all hell broke loose.

There was a time when my friends were comparing their report cards in the hall between classes.  In a grading system from A to E, they congratulated each other for the lonely C’s and empathized with each over between their D’s and E’s.  I shoved my report card deeper into my book, but one of my friends grabbed it and her look of disbelief made all of them grab it in turn, all of them looking at me like they never knew me at all before that time.  I hung my head in shame.  Straight A’s.  Sigh.  Not cool.

My friends were supportive, and I was glad I wasn’t shunned for being different.  I went to advanced classes with their support and enjoyed being with the “good kids” who didn’t imagine me being anything other than one of them.

In a way, I feel like my current life is a remake of high school.  I work at a church, do responsible things, and spend my days with people who probably never cut class when they were in school.  It’s kind of like being with the good kids in Trigonometry again.  It’s all a side of my nature, but at the same time I swear extra when I get home because I’m not actually that good.

At least I don’t keep my dark side hidden from myself the way some people do.  That can eat you up inside.  I figure it’s better to know my demons than to try to outrun them.  I didn’t get a horrible disease or kill myself during my wayward youth so I figure it’s all for the best.  No regrets.  (Mostly?)  But at the same time, maybe I should keep some of this history secret?

Sunday, October 27, 2013


I spent some time in a hotel this weekend thinking about creature comforts.  A white robe was laid out for me on the bed, with white sheets, white on white striped coverlet, white pillows piled in impossible mounds.  I tossed pillows around to maximize my perfect reading nest with a view of the sun setting in the west.  Ohmmmm….

My girlfriend and I took a road trip over a couple of states to meet with friends, attend lectures, and enjoy a Halloween party.  Unfortunately, I fell asleep before the party because my nest in the fluffy white linens and pillows was a little TOO comfortable.  Oops.  So much for drunken carousing and dancing.  I got up in the morning with an uncharacteristic smile and jumped when the elevator went down on the way to breakfast.

In case you haven’t done that, jumping at the moment when the elevator goes down makes you weightless for a second or so.

I had a broccoli quiche and bacon and a Pepsi -- things I would never normally have for breakfast, especially since I don’t normally bother with breakfast.  A man gave me a blue balloon swan and spoke to me in a Nashville accent.  He was going on about people’s attitudes towards clowns in a generally confrontational way, and I thought about Grandpa’s central Tennessee accent and the comfort I feel surrounded by words with extra inflections.  I smiled at the ill-natured clown and he chose to rant to someone else at the table instead while I talked to a Libertarian.

The drive to and from this little outing was an opportunity to talk myself out about various things that have been eating at me lately.  I’ve always considered it my job to be companionable as a passenger and keep the driver alert while we looked at corn fields and fall leaves on the trees.  I’ve known that I’ve been stressed lately, but I didn’t really pay attention to how badly I needed to relate all of my various stresses until my sweet girlfriend encouraged me to talk so much.  Once I got it all out, I didn’t think about it anymore throughout the weekend.  Done.  Discussed.  Type up the minutes and put it in a file to be forgotten.

It wasn’t a cheap weekend, and I don’t feel like looking at the bills.  Whatever the total, it was necessary.  We need creature comforts.  We need to have someone hear our feelings.  We need to look at fall leaves and corn fields too.  Or maybe it’s just as simple as we need to step away from our lives once in a while to gain a little perspective in a room that’s spectacularly white and clean, where we don’t have to do the laundry.

I’m late for posting this week, but I think you can see I had an excellent reason, with an excellent reason to lazily post a quick layout I did a long time ago.  No excuses, it’s just the easiest “creature” I can come up with unless you’d like me to post a picture of white for all the white linens.  And sorry, even though I had my camera this weekend, I didn’t take a single picture of any of it.  I wasn’t going to do ANYthing useful, even for blogging this weekend.

Happy Halloween everyone!!

Friday, October 18, 2013


I had a dream once, or maybe it was a meditation… whatever you call it, I was thinking about my place in the world and the “why” of the universe when I saw a pattern in my mind of criss-crossing lines with points of light at certain intersections.

Never let it be said that I can’t quote a Republican once in a while, and I actually thought I was quoting Hillary Clinton (which annoyed me almost as much), but no, it was Papa Bush.  Politics aside, I understood my vision to be the idea that I served a purpose in the universe.  I was a point of light, and I saw the connections between others.  It all made sense to me for a moment.

Sometimes I remember the vividness of this vision when I think about the threads of lives weaving in and out like invisible spider webs.  People I‘ve forgotten resurface after decades and tell me I did something that meant something to them.  I’m glad I didn’t know it at the time or I might’ve done things differently, or been so wrapped up in possible unintended consequences that I might never have done anything at all in my life.

I know I’ve surprised other people too when I’ve told them they had a lasting impact on my life.  One of the really wonderful things about the internet is that it lets us find people we thought were lost to us forever.  We can reach across time and distance to say “Thanks” and “I love you.”  We don’t say those things often enough.

When I’ve talked to lost friends via internet, I discovered those old connections still mean something to me.  I’m not really sure what to do about that other than an occasional “Hey, how ya doin’?”, but the connections matter.

If nothing else, maybe part of these kinds of entanglements is that once in a while I send out my best wishes to these people.  They don’t know it, but I honestly wish them success and happiness.  I’ve done this a long time, and then found out other people have done the same for me.  The thought is unexpected, but it also sustains me sometimes.

It’s not like the way some people try to pray me into thinking/doing what they believe is right.  It’s an open hearted feeling.  I think I’m at my best when I’m in that kind of mental/emotional space.  Wouldn’t it be nice if all wishes and intents and relationships were so simple?

“Entangled” is often a negative word, like you’ve gotten your foot stuck in a bear trap or weeds or someone else’s significant other, but the soul strands of spider webs are something I see as a positive.  All these connections to people make me feel like I have a place in the universe, that my existence matters.  It gives me motivation to tell others, “You matter too.  If my life has meaning, you helped create that meaning.”

Which is much better than my alternate, depressive thought, “You’re born alone. You die alone.”  Yeah, I’d much rather be “entangled”.

Sunday, October 13, 2013


Hitler made a statement with his mustache.  I’m not sure what that statement was supposed to be.  Look at me, I’m nuts?  Hitler wanted to be an artist before he tried to kill off so many people – which goes to show that the world would be much better off if everyone supports art.

I have a morbid fascination with WWII.  I don’t care about war tactics, airplanes, and stuff like that.  My fascination is with the people.  I need to understand how Hitler could do the things he did, why the nation let him do it, and all the human suffering and surviving that came out of it.

Hitler used his war to plunder the greatest art treasures.  He also used art to fight his war.  Whatever anyone could say about the content, German propaganda was so effective that Americans and Russians copied his tactics.  The symbols they used were powerful.  The swastika was an ancient symbol for luck and wellbeing.  The eagle is strength and victory.  Red, white, and black are the most powerful colors in advertising.

There’s just no getting around it, Hitler wasn’t Hitler without factoring in his feelings about art.  How could a man with the sensitivity to paint flowers and dogs be so heartless and cruel?  Or perhaps the real question is who will be the next Hitler?  What country will follow a lunatic into battle?

I know it’s going on in the world right now.  There’s always a crazy person who wants to rule the world and others will follow their ideas.  As a person with German ancestors, maybe WWII hits me too close to home.  All of my people were in the US at that time, but German war posters show people who could be my relatives.  Old newsreels show familiar-looking people with guns at concentration camps.

It’s been said many times, but can’t be said enough, “Never again”.

All of this seems too heavy for a Sunday morning with a stupid topic like “moustache”.  People either have moustaches or not, and hopefully the people with them aren’t women.  Also, hopefully the moustaches don’t have leftover lunch in them.

Amish men just don’t look right without one.  I mean really, if you’re going to let your beard grow, why shave off the moustache?  It makes them look cranky.

The best thing about Vikings other than their cool helmets is that they often braided their beards.  Sensible and stylish for when they were off plundering.  Pirates did that too, so maybe beards are just a sign of lawlessness and need to be repressed.  Maybe Muslim men would be in a better mood if they braided their beards with flowers?  Just saying.  Someone’s got to find a way to make the world a better place.

Saturday, October 5, 2013


I often think that kids are too entertained.  My childhood was perfectly boring most of the time, and yet it gave me enough material to blog about week after week – and I’m mostly cherry picking happy stories.  What will today’s kids blog about when they spend their days glued to TVs?

One time a friend and I were talking, and I said that kids don’t spend any time in contemplation. Or maybe I said reflection, meditation, rumination, or something when her son popped out of his video game long enough to ask for a definition of the word.  We described it as having time to think about things in a quiet way.  “Yeah, I don’t want any of that!” he said, and went back to his video game.  We all laughed because he was funny, but I still hold to my original point.  We need quiet time to reflect.

I looked at “underwater” and thought about my perfectly boring childhood by the river, and thought that I have too many choices to just pick one.  There was the time my sister got caught under the ice, or when my brother almost drowned in a lake, or when the ice broke in the spring and the water rose so fast I had to turn around and run to get away from it.  There was the year the whole Glen was underwater in the spring flood, or the year the neighbor drowned by the dam, or the other neighbor committing suicide off the bridge and laid facedown in the river until my sister turned him over.  Or, when I read in a book about a spy breathing underwater through a hollow reed and I found my own reed and spied on teenaged boys – but the teenaged boys were kind of dull and I went off to catch crayfish or something instead.

Maybe if I’d had playmates I wouldn’t care about reflecting time, but since I had more time than I knew what to do with, I spent a lot of time thinking about stuff and observing.  I also had the freedom to run around and find stuff to observe since I wasn’t bothered with pre or post school scheduling and my parents severely limited TV time.

I picked up a long blue heron plume from the water one day and stuck it in my hat and felt like D’Artagnan.  I posed for my niece, and she complained that I always find all the good stuff.  I told her that it comes from looking.  See how the water moves?  See how things collect at certain places?  Rocks and heavy things will land there, and feathers and light things will land here.  Fish will collect beneath that rotten log leaning over that still water, and it’s a waste of time to cast into the fast current unless you let the current take your hook to where the fish live.

I talked to my mom once about intuition, and she wondered whether or not intuition is really just observation.  There might be some truth to that even though I don’t think it fully explains everything.  I noticed that my boss’ color was bad the morning she died.  She was a little gray-yellow, and had on a lot of makeup.  Nobody else noticed, and it didn’t tell me that she was about to die, but it did explain something to me once she was gone.  No one else noticed the color of her skin because they didn’t spend so many boring hours looking at water sliding by.

Observing is a big part of art, but it’s an art in itself.  The more you look, the more you see, and the more things you see, the more it informs your life and improves relationships.  Or helps you catch fish and find the best feathers.

Saturday, September 28, 2013


I had to look this word up when I saw it on Illustration Friday this week.  It’s a super difficult word that basically says “moo”.  In other words, a word that’s the same as it sounds.  Geez some people make life unnecessarily hard.

I’m actually very good at mooing.  I went to a farm with a boyfriend once and while he and his buddy showed off their knowledge of tractors they got the thing stuck in the mud.  Then they got another tractor to pull out the first and got the second tractor stuck in the mud.  All the cows surrounded them and I spent a long time sitting on the fence perfecting my mooing while the two guys pondered gravity, suction, and mud.

Cows have very little to say.  It all boils down to “moo” (hungry), “mooo” full udder, or “moooo” really hungry.  At least that’s all I’ve figured out from it.  I spent a bit of another afternoon learning goose too.  I think it’s safe to say that I mastered it, or at least “honnnk” (I’m no threat and have nothing better to do than be a part of your gaggle for a while).

When I was young, I laid under the trees and watched the crows.  They’re far more interesting than cows and geese.  The crows were peacefully eating whatever they were eating on the ground, with a juvenile in the tree watching out for the family, when I decided to “CAW!” and the crows scattered.  Cool.  I have power over birds.

I let them scold me for a while before they returned to their usual stuff, this time with an adult male as lookout.  Just when he was looking comfortable again, “CAW!” and they scattered again.  Awesome cool.  I giggled and waited for my next opportunity.  The male crow was getting annoyed with me and gave me the evil eye.  “CAW!” and he “CAW”ed back at me.  That’s okay, and I “CAW”ed back and forth until I got his voice.  Papa Crow seemed to enjoy giving me lessons after a while.

Next time I went to their area, I “CAW”ed at Papa Crow and he gave me a “CAW” back.  I went about my serious business of being a child and he went about being a crow.  We developed an understanding.  He taught me more crow words, though admittedly most of them are a variation of “CAW”.  The other crows helped with my linguistics studies.  They all went with me to the bus stop when school started again.  I left them berries and shiny things as peace offerings.

This family of crows moved south in winter.  I figured I’d have to reintegrate into their group when they came back in spring, but Papa Crow called to me the first day he was back in Ohio.  I was overjoyed and told him so.  He told me as much as he could about his travels, given that while I might understand a lot of crow, I don’t get the finer details.  I do know that he had a lot to say that first day, and felt rather urgently about telling me about it.  We understood the main point, we missed each other.

My crows told the other crows downstream that I should be watched over.  I don’t know how they did it, and I didn’t talk with the downstream crows, but all of them were my babysitters.  They warned me of dangers.  I can never be lonely in summer as long as there are crows.

This is old art.  Once it was finished I recognized that must be a really giant cow or a really short farmer.

Friday, September 20, 2013


I did some freelance work for a woman who did feng shui.  She came to my house and pointed at the walls and said “single, single, single!”  She explained that all my pictures were individuals, and if I wanted to invite a relationship into my life I should hang things in pairs.  I refrained from telling her just hanging the pictures up was a step better than their previous positions of being stacked up or leaned up against the walls.

Anyway, I rearranged my pictures and put a red sheet on the bed like she suggested because, well, why not?  That was a long time ago, and the pictures are mostly back to individuals or leaning or in stacks, but I have managed some groups.  Let’s face it, I like individuals.  Sometimes I like being individuals together with someone else, but I suppose that isn’t always the best way to have a relationship.

I see a lot of old married people at work.  They come to church and hobble down the stairs together.  It’s sweet to see them helping each other out, and I wonder who’s going to help me hobble around when I’m old.  I’ve argued for a ramp and got a grip bar put into the bathroom, but those kinds of things just aren’t the same as someone being there to catch you when you fall.

I was going to get married when I was 20, but we fought about my name.  I had long-held opinions on women’s names, ever since I handed my mom mail addressed to her as Mrs. L. Hensley.  Her first name isn’t L and neither of her parents were a Hensley.  None of that address referred to Mom as an actual human in her own right, and my 5 yr. old self was offended.  My opinion didn’t change in the 15 years leading up to planning my own nuptials.  I would not be someone’s possession and lose my personal identity.

Ironically, my former fiancĂ© eventually married someone else who kept her name.  The ladies who hobble into church are proud to have their husband’s names.  Maybe I was just ahead of my time or maybe I’m just not cut out for “togetherness”, but when I later divorced someone else, I was glad I didn’t have his name.  It wasn’t mine, and I didn’t want anything to connect me to him as I moved into my future.

The word for the week is “together”, but I keep thinking about my life-long fight to be independent.  Free to think my thoughts, have my opinions, do what I want, leave my messes where I want to leave them, and lean my paintings against the wall in the order of completion or what I feel like looking at for now.

At the same time, I’d like someone else around who wouldn’t want to make me sacrifice any of those things.  Well, I guess I could hang pictures and pick up some of my projects if that meant I wouldn’t be subjected to their messes.  And then someday we’d get old and one or the other of us would help the other up and down steps.