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

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Saturday, July 30, 2016


I used to live at a place we called "Valhalla*".  I was part of a "we" at that time, and he was into Vikings.  There's a whole lot of back story I could tell about how we ended up in this 100-acre patch of woods hugged by the Grand River (1 of 2 state-designated 'wild and scenic' rivers in Ohio -- the other being the Chagrin River of my childhood), but let's skip past some of my completely justified marital bitterness and get to Valhalla.

The very large house on this property hadn't been lived in for years because it was part of decade-long divorce battle.  Hunters liked to break in and use the grand fireplace in the basement for warmth and the pool table for fun.  The woman of the pending-divorce wanted someone in the house to keep the hunters out.  Sure!  I'd love to plunk on the grand piano in the cathedral-sized living room facing the woods!

In an odd loop of coincidence, I was in this house many years before, when it was decked out in splendor.  A friend and I were riding horses and saw a bunch of older teenaged boys floating a Volkswagen in the river.  We called and laughed at them, they invited us to the fun.  The mom served us gourmet sandwiches off giant silver trays, and kids swam in the Olympic-sized indoor pool to clean off river and Volkswagen grit.  There was so much laughter; I can still hear it.

The house was silent when "we" lived there -- unless you want to count Andrew, our ghost.  I felt like I had to ask his permission each time I drove down the 1/4 mile overgrown, gravel driveway.  Someone advised me to tell Andrew to "go to the light!"  I did, and then all the lights around the house turned themselves on and off.  Ever after, my dog would put her feet on the wall and bark at light switches.  I laughed a lot at that too.

The house had a 2nd story art studio, which was a happiness I had always fantasized about.  I moved my many art supplies up the stairs and stared over the half-wall which overlooked the cathedral living room and out the 3 stories of windows that faced the woods -- and stared -- and stared -- and created nothing.

My dog and I took daily walks in the woods.  We sat at the waterfall, communed with the white pines, picked mushrooms, violets, ramps, and sassafras.  We watched the deer come up to the windows every evening... and eventually I started to become myself again after years of cheating, neglect, and verbal abuse.  I signed up for an art festival, shoved my drawing table up to one of those giant windows, and started to paint again -- and couldn't stop.

I only lived at Valhalla spring through fall of 1 year, but it was a life-changing time for me.  I didn't want to pay heat bills for a mansion so I kicked out the people living in my house and moved back to where I was before the abuse.  We were happily divorced within the year.  Well, I was happy about it at any rate.

Sometimes I thought it was ironic to call the place "Valhalla" because I was so unhappy when we moved there, but maybe it was the best and only name for the place I refound my happiness within myself.

Valhalla (Merriam-Webster definition)
1. the great hall in Norse mythology where heroes slain in battle are received
2. a place of honor, glory, or happiness

I wish I could show you photos, but I didn't take any at the time.  The painting is a bit of a larger work I did at that time.  I drove down the long drive this past winter and found the large house has been replaced by a much smaller one.  Maybe it's for the best?  It was a house of divorce, even with the echoes of laughter.

P.S. My blog buddy Jane is having a giveaway.  Click on the photo below to go to her site for a chance to win.


Sunday, July 24, 2016


I will have the most perfect illustration for "Trapped" because I have an assignment for a magazine article on the topic, but the illustration doesn't exist yet and I couldn't show it until after it's published anyway.  All I can show for now is that I'm building a cinder block wall as a part of it.

The Republican National Convention has left Cleveland and as far as I know there weren't any international incidents other than the inevitable Trump nomination.  The people of Greater Cleveland may be divided in politics, but we're all heaving a collective sigh of relief that the event is over.  I realize the national drama isn't over, but I'm glad Cleveland came out of the event okay.

As for "Trapped", I keep flip flopping between bad memories and thoughts of freedom:  the misery of a bad marriage, the joy of divorce, bad jobs, great jobs... climbing tall, tall pine trees and looking out at the world with the view of a hawk, swaying with the wind as I clutched the trunk because the brittle branches won't hold even a skinny, little kid, especially if you go too high.

I think I knew at the time that the world was full of opportunities, even when I felt unhappy and limited.  I didn't want to be president, but I fought with my father that I could become one if I changed my mind about it because I deeply felt that women could and should challenge traditional limitations.  "Not in my lifetime!" Dad said.  "It will happen in mine!" I pronounced.  Maybe it will turn out that we were both right?  It didn't happen in Dad's life, but it will in mine.

I don't know if Hillary Clinton will be the one to break this glass ceiling, but she's come farther than any women before her -- and good for all women as a result.  I could say a whole lot about what I think of the American political system and how that has made a mess of things, and probably threatens the entire world, but I can't tackle everything important in one post.

I didn't vote for Hillary in the primaries, and even that feels like something of a victory because I chose my preferred candidate based on issues instead of gender.  I'll admit that I still wish for a Bernie Sanders upset at the Democratic National Convention this week in Philadelphia, but I realize this is just my personal fantasy.  I loved Bernie before most people even knew who he was.

Long before all this craziness, I was actually in the same room with Trump once.  I went to New York City for work and my boss got us tickets to "The View".  One of the guests was Donald.  He was perfectly pleasant and charming... and that's the last good thing I'll say about him unless I get the opportunity to say that he accepted his defeat with grace.

Perhaps, perhaps my childhood vision of a woman president will come true in my lifetime?

Sunday, July 17, 2016


I've continued watching psychiatrists' youtube videos about mental disorders and one of them called tv cooking shows "Food Porn".  What?!!  I looove cooking shows!  Friendly people chop, mix, sizzle, and chat, and I like to play this in the background when I'm trying to relax.  It's not like I'm going to actually follow any of their recipes.  I just prefer cooking shows to seeing a video of who's gotten blown up in the streets last.

Nice people cooking is a normal, pleasant world, and I want life to be pleasant and normal.  They remind me of the safety and love in Grandma's kitchen.  A full stomach means there's enough to go around and share.

The perky youtube therapist said my Food Porn is an unhealthy preoccupation with food.  Grrr.  I suspect she's probably right, but that doesn't make me want to give it up either.  Well, I'm very willing to give up vegetarian cooking shows, but I don't want to give up the fat old ladies making cookies.  I'm not eating them, so it's a non-caloric food obsession.

The strawberries and yogurt is a memory of a shared breakfast.  If you've followed my blog a while, you may have noticed I've painted other shared meals.  Food and love go together no matter what Dr. Phil says.  I had dinner last night with a couple of friends.  Lunch was with more friends.  Friends --> food.  Okay, maybe my friends and I should spend more time in the park walking it off too?

Big meals at Grandma's house were always followed by a walk in the park with the men while the women cleaned the kitchen.  I held Grandpa's hand and we journeyed across the street to Goodyear Park to poke around at the pond and hike through the woods in the summer, sled and warm up by the burn barrel in the winter.

I recently visited my friend's new condo in Akron, Ohio, not far from where my grandparents lived.  I decided to go past their house.  It's been years and years since I've been there, and I was happy to see that so much of the neighborhood looked the same as when I was a child -- until I got to Grandma and Grandpa's house.  It looked horrible.  The pretty porch windows with a fan design at the top were falling apart and paint was slopped on the glass.  A sign hung on the door that said the police were watching the property, so I suppose it's been used as a drug house.  The garage looks like it's going to fall down.  Grandpa must be having a fit in the afterlife.

A young couple with a baby watched me from the steps of Mrs. Edward's house.  A picnic was going on behind Aunt Sally's.  The park looked green and inviting.  Everything looked happy and wonderful for a new generation except our house.

I went home and thought about all the warm memories and cookies in the bright, turquoise kitchen and decided that the current state of things doesn't change anything.  The house and my grandparents live within me.  They're like rereading a beloved book, something I can pull off the bookshelf anytime and feel the warmth again with thanks.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

"Teeth 2"

I found a complete bird skeleton this week which I decapitated, sanitized, and added to my natural history display in my office.  I was pleased that the skull still had its lower jaw and noticed the way the lower jaw fits into the upper is the same knob and socket arrangement as mammals.  Its pelvis was very different than a mammal, but I didn't keep that part.  Cleaning the tiny, fragile skull bones was a delicate effort and I carefully placed it next to the last skull and stood back to admire my collection.

There's a lot of traffic in my office, but I'm almost certain that nobody notices this shelf on the bookcase.  The other offices at work are filled with pictures of grandchildren, or world travel, or religious images (since I work for Religion).  I got an ad with a nice reproduction of a Saint Luke painting and framed it.  People noticed that, but didn't see the new skull. 

 Paula Kuitenbrouwer sent me a postcard with Mandarin Ducks and Sharon Wagner sent me a pink flower.  These are on the bulletin board and people pause and admire their art without looking slightly left to bird skulls, feathers, eggs, and nests.  Maybe they are just polite and not pointing out the macabre? Flowers and living birds are clearly prettier than bones.

All of my natural history items came from the garden at work.  I make a point of going to the garden for a few minutes (in every kind of weather) at least twice a day to clear my mind of numbers and people.  It keeps me sane and centered.

As much as things change, some things stay the same.  When I was a child romping alone in the woods, I spent a lot of time examining animal anatomy because the world is littered with bones if you stop to look.  You'd think this would make me a good biology student, but I was completely icked out by formaldehyde and intestines -- which wasn't helped by flirtatious boys leaving dead things on my seat or down the back of my shirt.  Boys can really learn a lot about better flirtations, and I didn't even understand this was flirtation.  I was mad at stupid/mean boys.  One of them explained his flirting to me many years after the fact.  It's a wonder our species survives.

Okay, songbirds don't have teeth, but illustrationfriday.com didn't give me a new word for the week so we're even.  I posted this bird skull art a couple years ago too, so I'll admit to taking shortcuts this week.  Sis1 is visiting from out of state, and I've been trying to make the most of her visit.

The new guy started at work and as I expected, he seems perfectly fine and friendly despite my pre-arrival anxiety.  Change may be good in the end, but the unknown of it stirs things up.  I went to the river after work one day and felt more peaceful because as much as things change, some things are the same.  I'm calmed by the river and the things that live in it.  Minnows tickled my toes, I picked up stones, and I studied a bird skeleton.  I could've been 5 again, especially with sisters around who remember me then.

Saturday, July 2, 2016


In 2nd grade, the teacher asked us the proper method for brushing our teeth.  Hands shot into the air and she picked X, who proudly demonstrated little circles.  Wrong!  I knew the proper answer of brushing from the gum to the end of the tooth, but I didn't put my hand up.  I almost never did.  I got picked as default too often as it was.

X had perfect little teeth.  The plaid pocket of his perfectly pressed shirt matched the shirt pattern exactly, his perfectly shined shoes complementing his pressed pants.  His hair was cut professionally and always combed neatly.  I hated him.  This was made harder by the fact that he was smart, polite, eager to help, and just terribly nice.  I kept my bad feelings to myself and we often played together pleasantly on the playground.

I was ashamed of myself.  Even at 6 years old, I knew I was wrong and probably going to hell.  I glared at my girl scout uniform with 100 buttons and ironed it hatefully, knowing boys didn't have as many buttons and X's mom did all of his ironing (with starch!).  Life was unfair, and X symbolized every unfairness.

He's had a nice life.  Of course he has.  That's why I put so much energy into hating him.  He started with everything to ensure that kind of success -- which I honestly don't begrudge him.  Nice people should have nice lives.

A few years ago, a child confessed her jealousies to me.  I was all adult and sympathetic and gave her my best advice to improve her situation with her peers and within her mind.  Afterwards, I felt like laughing at my own childhood jealousy.  It all seemed so important at the time, but it really wasn't.  Whatever X had or has in his life has nothing to do with my path in life, and jealousy is such a waste of energy.

I wish I had better teeth, but wishing for that doesn't mean cavities in X's teeth would my life better.  Another friend lost all her teeth.  That doesn't make my life any better either.

We live in a world that keeps telling us to look at what other people have instead of looking within.  The underlying message is that we should be envious enough to get whatever they've got.  The overt message we get is that jealousy is an ugly emotion and we should all stuff that inside so we don't make anyone else uncomfortable.  Either way, the message in our society is to focus on other people to achieve our own happiness.  You know that's never going to work.

We've all felt jealousy, and once in a while I still get a hot stab of it about something.  I'll never claim that I've mastered everything with a higher intent.  I try to do the best with what I have and find my happiness within my abilities to gain it.  I wish all of us that kind of cavity-free happiness, especially all the children who face feelings for the first time.

Sometimes I think the secret to happiness is simply choosing to be happy, or just finding contentment wherever you are.

Wishing a merry 4th to everyone!