I’m a creative, experienced, multi-purpose artist and art director
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Saturday, December 30, 2017


I've been thinking of the meaning of life lately.  Sometimes I'm inclined to think there isn't any meaning to it at all.  I just want it to have meaning.  Other times I think my contributions to the world aren't the things I even notice.

When I saw the word for the week, my contrarian self started writing about Pams instead.  I erased all that and decided to sleep on it.  I woke up with this image in my mind and remembered one of my childhood Pams finding me as an adult.  She passionately talked about how I had said things that helped her at a time when she really needed it.

To be honest, I didn't remember doing it.  I was so uncomfortable when she was pouring out her heart to me as an adult I couldn't even take in what she was saying.  I remembered her as a nice, if rather sad, girl.  I liked talking with her on the school bus.  I missed her when she got shipped off to boarding school.

Pam credited me for preventing her suicide.  I think that's more credit than I deserve for saying I'd miss her.  I suppose I also said things about the possibilities in getting away from her domineering parents.  Maybe I even expressed some envy at getting away and having a chance at a fresh start?  I can't give myself much credit for something I barely remember.  I'm also reminded of another girl I didn't save because I felt so overwhelmed with own life that I didn't want to take on her problems.  Maybe it isn't so much what I might've done for Pam as what she did for me?  She helped me feel less guilty when I was ripping myself up with guilt.

I'd like to see the map of my life.  I want to know what matters and what it all means, but we're all like the bird who is just focused on the next seed.  Where we came from and where we're going is too vast a map for us to truly understand.  Just take the next step.  Follow the trail of seeds.  Sooner or later we'll get to the end of the trail and be able to look back and evaluate how we did.

It didn't require work to comfort Pam, it's just my nature to try to help.  If the meaning of my life is to spread some kindness, then I'm happy to do my part.  I encourage you to spread some love around too.  I'm forever grateful to the people who have extended kindness and encouragement to me.

We live in a culture that rewards our work, not who we are.  We're evaluated by how much physical stuff we amass.  Artists are rated by the quality and quantity of their artwork, but the same standards are used towards people in other professions.  Nobody seems to count how many times we hold a door for someone or stop to listen to them.

I may not have a clear view of the map of my life, but I think at least a part of it must be to spread a little sunshine around.  I don't know if I'd see it if one of my actions saves a life.  What I do know is that recognizing the possibility of making a difference for someone else in whatever ways I can is important to me and I'll try to do more of that going forward in the next year and beyond.

Happy New Year everyone!

Sunday, December 24, 2017


Merry Christmas!  (or the holiday of your choice)  I hope you enjoy the season in whatever ways make you happiest with the people you love most.

I've got to stop baking cookies.  Warm cookies fresh from the oven are irresistible and the house smells delicious.  I also made peppermint bark.  That has to count for "plant", doesn't it?  Besides the plant name, chocolate and peppermint are both plants.  It's easy to do, and sooo yummy...

Put some candy canes in a plastic bag and bash them with a hammer.  Get your frustrations out, but leave a some recognizable chunks.  Melt chocolate in the microwave, then spread it on wax paper.  Sprinkle the bashed candy canes on top.  When this is solidified, spread melted white chocolate over that and sprinkle more candy cane bits.  Mmmm.

I asked Sis1 about using whole wheat flour in the cookies.  She advised me to go 50/50 with it and regular flour.  They worked out fine.  I also made some of the cookies with stevia for my diabetic friends.  That worked alright too.  I can taste the difference, but the feedback from friends is that they don't taste it.  Maybe it's just that I know they're healthier cookies and therefore suspect?

I considered putting my cookies in tins.  I have quite a few since I've kept samples of tins I've illustrated, but I like my samples.  It's nice to be able to pick up things I designed.  The tins went back into the closet.

This tin wasn't one of my favorites.  I was given the assignment to do an ice skating scene just before lunch -- but finish that other project first.  Get the skaters done by 4:00 though.  This was about the time I slammed something on my desk and said it was impossible.  Too bad.  Do it.  Being responsible, I slapped a bunch of things together and hit send at 3:59, hoping the customer hated it and would give me more time, but no, he loved it.  I grieved over the pinecones.  Oh well, onto the next project.

The moment I slammed things on my desk is memorable, but it's over, and it doesn't really matter.  The tin sold out and the customer was happy.  I got paid, so I was happy.  Nobody but me knows all the shortcuts I took.  None of it matters.  Let it go.  A coworker tried to stab me in the back with the customer about my shortcuts, and he laughed at her.  I won.  Yay!  That exchange made this tin a much happier memory.  But that's over too.

This time of the year, I like to think about what I want to leave behind so I can move forward in the new year.  The days are getting longer.  The negatives of the past are over.  It's a time to broaden my view of past, present, and future.  What do I want to make happen in my life?  I'm not talking about New Year's resolutions which are often doomed.  What are the big goals, and how can they best be achieved?  What is a small step I can take today?  Next week?  Next month?  Sometime before summer?  It's important to dream, but dreams come true when we make them come true.

I hope everyone enjoys their holidays.  Eat cookies.  Be kind to yourself and to others and support their goals too.

Sunday, December 17, 2017


I have the best intentions.  I intend to send Christmas cards and give thoughtful gifts.  I want to make other people happy with physical evidence of my affection.  In fact, I want this so much that nothing is quite good enough.  I shop until I'm worn out and still don't have anything to wrap.  It doesn't help that I'm frugal and a bit agoraphobic.  Ten nine eight days before Christmas, I have found exactly one present.  I'm feeling pressure.

My brother took me to dinner for my birthday.  I'll take him out for his birthday.  It's simple.  We know the rules.  We're both happy.  Why can't it be that simple all the time?

A friend reminded me of gifts I gave a few years ago.  They were labor-intensive, thoughtful, and beautiful.  Damn, that's a standard I can't continue.  I was glad to make them, glad they were appreciated, but please don't expect that level of effort every year.  And I know she doesn't expect that.  Her appreciation just makes me want to give her something great again because she's a lovely friend.

(Repeat cycle in a never-ending, obsessive loop as the days count down to Christmas...)

I wrote the above and decided to quit whining and go shopping.  I now have two gifts, neither great.  They're both kind of cute to go with better gifts which obviously don't exist yet.  About $100 poorer than I started, I now have a yoga mat, cookies, chips, and a frozen pizza.  Clearly, a yoga mat requires junk food and other nonessentials.  I also got a pair of excellent shoes for $9.  Did you hear that?  $9!!!  Yay!  I intended them as replacements for my yard shoes which have a flapping sole.

I happily showed a friend my new shoes and he firmly advised against further shopping.  "Be responsible!"  Okay.  I'm thinking of getting another pair of $9 shoes though so I can use one pair for walking around and one pair for mowing the lawn.

Maybe I'll bake some cookies as gifts.  Don't get excited.  They don't exist yet.  We'll see.  I have all the best intentions so they might happen.  I know, the road to hell is paved with good intentions.  I'm just not cut out for holidays.  I'm also contemplating whether or not I can get away with making whole wheat cookies because I accidentally bought the wrong kind of flour.  Ten pounds of it since it was on sale.  No wonder it was on sale.  Whole wheat?  Uck.  Told you, I'm a bad shopper.

Note about flour, buy unbleached.  It tastes and behaves the same as white flour without the Clorox.

I think the cookies are going to happen.  In years past, my friend Helen made buckets and buckets of cookies to give to friends, clubs, and doctors' offices.  She was a sweetheart, but she died this year.  I'm thinking there are a lot of people in need of cookies.  I won't pretend to do this on such an industrial scale, but I can do my part.  I think I'll keep Helen's spirit alive in the process.  I even have two bags of stevia for diabetic cookies.  I wonder if people will rebel against whole wheat diabetic cookies?  Maybe dipped in chocolate?

I hope your shopping/baking is going better than mine!

Friday, December 8, 2017


I finished another painting.  Woo hoo!  This one went faster than the last, though it still took considerably longer than it feels like it should.  Maybe it would go quicker if I didn't spend hours staring at it and pondering?  Whatever.  It is what it is, and the process was the point in this case.

I wanted a beer bottle in my box, but didn't want it to dominate.  I knew it should stand in the corner, but that involved perspective and foreshortening, and I really didn't want to get into that.  I spent a few days procrastinating, avoiding, and plea bargaining with myself.  Eventually, the beer bottle ended up where it was always meant to be.

It's been a while since I actually had to map out such things correctly, and the process made me think that it was a good tutorial, especially since this piece is comparatively simple perspective with only one vanishing point.  I'm also aware some people have nightmares about perspective.  (Yeah, I know, that's a stretch for this week's word.)  You can click on the pics to make them larger to see details.

1. Establish the vanishing point by following the corners of the box until all the lines meet.  (I changed the vanishing point later, so don't get confused by that.  I also broke the rules in one area for my own reasons, but that's why we get artistic license.)

2. In one-point perspective, all vertical lines (things that move away from the viewer) will go to the vanishing point.  All things facing the viewer will be flat circles and rectangles.

3. For the beer bottle, draw a circle where it will sit, then draw a square around the circle because it's easier to plot squares in perspective than circles.  Draw lines from the vanishing point to the corners of the square.

4. Draw another square where the bottle is fattest near the top.  Line up the corners of the square with the same vanishing points as used for the first square.  Put a circle in the square, and draw lines from the vanishing point to the edges of the circles.  Congratulations!  You've just drawn a cylinder in space!

5. The process is the same for the bottle neck.  Find the center of your first circle and draw a line to the vanishing point.  This will be the center of your neck too.  Of course, beer bottles aren't quite as simple as 2 cylinders floating in space.  They're full of curves, but after placing the cylinders you can tidy it up within a framework of logic.

In reality, I made this all harder than it needed to be when I was actually painting the bottle.  I made the tutorial afterwards and could smack myself for all extra work I put into it.  But, my extra work is an opportunity for a lesson.  Don't get caught up with the details.  What is the basic form of what you're trying to reproduce?  Start there.  It's like drawing a face.  Don't start with an eyelash.  Start with an oval and figure out where the eyes go first.  Maybe I should do a tutorial on faces sometime?  This painting was a whole lot of itsy bitsy portraits on bumpy canvas.  The finished painting is 18" x 24".

Saturday, December 2, 2017


Did you know a fortune cookie has 27 ½ calories?  That's ridiculous.  A ½ cup serving of Sylvia's turnip greens is 50, which includes actual food value and bacon bits.  I was sidelined with migraines this week and had some extra time to contemplate my food labels.  After some careful consideration, I decided 27 of the calories in a fortune cookie is in the fortune, so I didn't eat that part.

(...drumming my fingers on my keyboards trying very hard not to type anything about my traitor-filled, racist, misogynist government passing a bill to rob the poor and middle-class to give more wealth to the wealthy since I just ranted about sexual harassment last week.  The news may have been a contributing factor in my migraines?)

I've been privileged to live near or with wealthy people even though I never had any of that wealth myself.  It's nice to share their perks.  They have cool toys, great food, more land, house, privacy, and other stuff.  The thing is, they don't seem very happy.  They're often very lonely.  They don't trust anyone likes them for themselves, just for what others are trying to get from them.  They can feel guilty and inadequate for being over-blessed.

I sometimes call my childhood home "the slum of Willoughby Hills" because flood plain houses are often inexpensive, converted summer cottages while the uphill areas are generally middle to upper middle class, and my nearest neighbors had extreme wealth.  As a lonely child, I often visited the lonely old people ensconced in their mansions surrounded by their manicured and spacious estates.  I picked flowers for the old man with the golf cart.  I drank tea with the old lady amongst her doilies and fragile figurines.  I listened to their stories because nobody else listened to them anymore.

I made my rounds to the old people in The Glen too.  I wasn't particular about perks.  I enjoyed perks when I got them, didn't miss them when I didn't.  In some way I thought my rounds were my charity work.  In another way, I was getting friendship and attention.

I don't want to portray myself as somehow sainted for my charity visits.  I was bored.  When my childish energy couldn't take the echoing halls of mansions anymore, I ran around the grounds and I petted sheep and goats and fed apples to horses.  I liked being privileged enough to have the freedom to enjoy these special places that were worked by hired hands and admired only through windows.

Maybe the lesson I received from all my old people is patience?  Maybe it was the art of conversation?  To listen, to try to understand, to find common ground?

I hate seeing people ignoring each other while texting garbage on their phones.  Talk and listen with each other.  Share cookies.  Find ways to bridge differences and explore common ground.  I'll try to remember that when I'm incensed about the news.

Sunday, November 26, 2017


I should either rake leaves outside or clean house inside today.  What I've actually done is watch news and play computer games.  Today is supposed to be the chilliest day of the week so the housekeeping idea is gaining a little traction, and staying inside would allow me to continue my news obsession.

There's all sorts of major things going on in the greater world, but the news isn't talking much about that.  It's mostly about sexual harassment.  You may remember this is a topic that hits close to home since it was major factor at my last job, and most of my other jobs, and it seems people are noticing it happens to quite a few women.

I've had quite a few conversations with men lately on the topic.  Some get it, as well as anyone can who isn't living it.  More seem ignorant or misinformed.  It doesn't occur in front of them, so they have a hard time believing it's as prevalent or serious as claimed.

One male friend asked why I thought it had happened so often to me.  Because I've been single?  Because I worked in a male-dominated profession? Because I'm assertive and accomplished?  Because I turned down cheating coworkers for dates?  As more and more women come out with their stories, I wonder if I'm not as alone as I've felt.  It's part of our culture where a woman is paid and valued less than a man.  This article expresses someof the issues, but it only addresses the conditioning females endure.

I've been adding up the perps in my life and I'm flabbergasted by the sheer quantity of them, and I'm not counting cat callers and ass grabbers.  I've been assaulted, harassed, and discriminated against.  I've suffered stalking, break-ins, window peeping, and phone calls.  Some of this lasted years, and the police and other authorities were useless.  And for the record, I wasn't dressed like a slut and it wasn't my fault.  The perps were usually attractive and well-off.  All were white.

Women forced to leave jobs due to harassment have to work their way up ladders over and over in ways men don't have to do -- which is another justification to pay women less and pass them over for promotions.  Keep in mind, they climb those ladders while coping with the traumas they've been accumulating on the job, and often go home to verbally or physically abusive mates.

We need to speak up and support each other, and that includes good men who are willing to talk about the subject.  Everyone needs to understand that it's going to continue because perpetrators aren't caught or prosecuted.  Too many events are he said/she said without a chance of justice.  But, women are finally getting believed.  It's a start.

Reluctantly climbing off of my soap box where I could rant considerably longer, the leaves are calling.  It's cathartic to listen to the news when perps are finally getting outed, but my lawn is orange with leaves.  Fresh air and exercise feels like it's winning over housekeeping.  This is older art, done at another job where I was harassed and discriminated against, where my boss exposed himself, where his female boss laughed it off as "boys will be boys"... ohmmm... yeah, fresh air, exercise, happy thoughts!

Friday, November 17, 2017


Nobody is born a "master" at anything.  Child prodigies aren't born with skills.  The child sits in front of a piano, loves plinking at the keys, and continues to plink until the noise becomes music.  They're praised, and they plink a lot more.  Maybe the kid was born into a musical family, maybe a parent teaches them some things.  A prodigy develops over time in a fertile environment.  So too with art and any other pursuit that requires skill, even if most of us won't be child prodigies and learn our skills as adults.

I've been in the archives this week.  I'm working on another painting and was looking for reference materials.  In the hunt, I discovered these rare, preschool drawings.  To my knowledge, these are the only evidence of my early art efforts until I started saving my drawings many years later.  I can only wonder about my concepts of anatomy back then, or what was going on around me to inspire love and hate.

I tend to think art is an inheritable tendency.  I'm from an artistic family, and because they're artistic, my parents encouraged me.  I suppose they probably also appreciated the fact that art is a quiet activity and easier for adults to be around?  But, I started out like every other kid with a crayon.  I looked at my world and tried to copy my vision of it.  I got better at doing that over time.  I enjoyed doing it, so I did more of it.  I was competitive enough to want to do it better than my peers.  I wanted praise.  Eventually, I got to the point where I developed some real skills.  I studied and acquired more skills.

Now, it seems like the world doesn't care about those skills that I've spent so many hours accumulating.  The painting I'm working on could be accomplished much faster, and more technically perfect, on the computer.  I've been giving some thought to the practical stupidity of spending so much time on things that aren't going to pay the bills.

And I don't care.

It might be the first time in decades that I don't care.  I'm painting for me.  I'm working through personal issues with paint and feeling a pleasure that I haven't felt for a very long time -- and kind of stumbling into an awareness that this kind of painting is far more important than all the BS I did as an illustrator/graphic designer through the years.

It would be nice to get money for these paintings, but the paintings are more important to me than the bucks.  Of course this is only true because I still have enough money to keep the lights on.  Life would be so much easier if I had a trust fund or a patron.  (If you didn't see the other painting, you can see it here.)

This is just a part of the unfinished painting.  At the moment, it's a mostly empty box which I'm going to fill up with things.  I'm having some trouble planning out how to make things fit inside, but even that problem is a pleasure at the moment.  One thing is for sure though, this painting will go much faster than the last one!

Saturday, November 11, 2017


Sis ate one of my crayons.  It was a broken bit of a useless color like mustard or flesh, but still, eating non-food items was curious, and eating my crayons was criminal.  Even at my tender age of about 4, I wanted to know why she did it.  "A girl in my class eats crayons.  I wanted to know what they taste like."  Well, what did it taste like?  "Like a candle, like wax."  Sis sorted through my colors and picked up another broken bit of an expendable color.  She popped it in her mouth, chewed thoughtfully, and pronounced crayons weren't worth eating.

I waited until she was off to more exciting adventures before sampling an expendable color myself.  Blech.  I felt sorry for that girl in Sis' class.  Something wasn't right about her.  This was before I went to class and found out quite a few kids eat non-food art supplies.  I sampled glue and decided that was right up there with crayons, but paste?  Mmmm.  The paste even had a convenient plastic paddle inside for convenient licking.

"If everybody jumped off a bridge, would you follow them?" Dad asked.  Yes, as it turns out, I would jump off the bridge, but that was quite a few years later.  I felt like telling Dad it was fun too, but then I heard about kids getting paralyzed doing that kind of thing and kept quiet.  I also learned that eating my paste meant I had less paste for art.  Less art is stupid.  Don't eat paste.

Sometimes I look at people and see a world filled with lemmings running off cliffs.  Think for yourself!  I can feel superior in these moments and completely forget that I ate a crayon and jumped off a bridge (plus a plethora of other ill-advised activities).

There are other times I think being an independent minded person is punishing.  I can see the cliff coming.  I can warn others about the cliff.  We all go over the cliff anyway.  Ignorance is bliss until you hit the bottom, and then I'm pretty sure none of the lemmings are thinking about their choices anymore.  Sometimes I'd like to be ignorant too.

We've all eaten a crayon or licked paste or some equivalent action because we saw someone else doing it.  I was going to write that nothing good ever comes from it, but I remembered learning to use a computer.  I tried reading about it, but I didn't get it until I watched someone else use it.  We learn by following.  It's just the next step, tasting the crayon and deciding not to eat another that's important.  What do you do with all of the things you've learned?

In art, we can see when someone takes off their training wheels.  There are millions of Bob Ross knock offs, and then you see a landscape with life and colors that weren't shown on the tv how-to show.  That's the magic, when someone expresses themselves instead of simply copying.  Art mirrors life.  You can feel the joy when someone takes off the training wheels of their lives and thinks for him/herself.

I'm pretty sure we're all some mix of crayon eaters and artists.  We're all works in progress.  It keeps life interesting.

Saturday, November 4, 2017


Harvey Weinstein's despicable behavior may have a positive outcome for women?  The fame of many of his victims has brought national attention to a subject women have known a long time.  The fact that many of the famous women, and Weinstein himself, are Democrats have Republicans excited to report it.  Democrats sin.  Take your attention off alleged presidential treason, tax evasion, and money laundering.  Republicans are also delighted about the Democratic party making a deal with pre-convention Hillary Clinton.

As a Bernie supporter, I'm seriously annoyed with the Democratic party.  I addictively watch news about the varied investigations into the Russian scandal.  T whines he wants investigations into HC's emails whenever he's in trouble though authorities have already said HC made poor decisions without breaking the law.  Let's get to the main issue that effects everybody, sexism.

I'm delighted to hear men talking about the topic.  Granted, a sorry amount of those men seem to completely miss the point of the subject, but they're talking.  It's a start.

Sexism isn't about sex.  It's domination and bullying.  Offenders are often married or in relationships.  They get consensual sex.  Harassing a woman at work makes them feel powerful.  In no way is this a "flattering" or "friendly".  Here's some statistics...

  • Nearly 1 in 5 women report being raped.
  • About 1 in 20 women experienced sexual violence other than rape in the last 12 months.
  • 20% of all US crime is domestic violence and it is the leading cause of injury for women.  The FBI estimates violence will occur in 2/3 of all marriages."
That's enough statistics.  It's a violent world.  That violence follows us through office doors.  The greatest tragedy is that the violence is tacitly condoned by the powers that be.  Human Resources departments exist to protect companies.  Policemen are often child abusers and wife beaters.  Laws are written to protect men in power.  Victims fear to band together because they are afraid they'll lose their positions.

Many otherwise good people seem blind to reality.  Maybe Weinstein's abuses finally breaks through decades of concrete bubbles around other abusers?  When Bill O'Reilly was outed, many enjoyed his downfall without much sympathy to his quickly forgotten victims.  When Anita Hill testified to Congress, she was criticized and diminished while Clarence Thomas was given a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court.

Sexism is a huge topic that effects women at work and at home.  I suppose it takes some famous women to make the point, but it happens to your mom, aunt, sister, daughter, niece, friend, neighbor, and maybe to you.  Also, as Kevin Spacey demonstrated, not all victims are female.

Keep talking.  Don't let this bubble fade without awareness and change.

This art is something I did for American Mensa's Bulletin magazine.  In this context, it's a reminder that the world can be a place of comfort and support between genders.

Saturday, October 28, 2017


DadadaDA!!  I finished my painting.  Woo hoo!  Yay!  A painting I realize has very little to do with "spooky" -- then I remembered painting The Ghost of Dibble Hollow, so I'm clearly completely legit about following the word for the week :)

There's a lot I could say about this painting, but I'm curious about what you think of it without anymore explanation than I've already given.  I've even got another painting  or 2 in mind that will follow similar themes.  Hopefully they won't take years to complete!

As for "spooky", when we were kids, Sis2 and her friends played "Who's Afraid of Bloody Mary?"  They took turns locking each other in a closet and scaring themselves silly.  I got shoved into the closet for a turn too.  I reluctantly said the words 3x and felt torn between terror and healthy skepticism.

The other girls wouldn't let me out.  As the youngest, they thought they could get me to scream the loudest, and they kept me incarcerated for a very long time.  I amused myself by examining the contents of the closet by candlelight.  By the time I was allowed out, I'd lost most of my fear and come to the decision that the girls weren't really playing, they were just cruel.

The girls thought I lacked the proper attitude for play.  Maybe?  My 5-year-old self felt pretty sure about my conclusions though.  I told a school friend about the torture test and she agreed with me.  We polled our other playmates and everyone agreed, with an observation that most older siblings are mean.  We were sensitive middle children.

This experience oddly turned into a life-long interest in collecting other people's ghost stories -- not fake stories intended to frighten, but real stories.  It started that day on the playground when 2 of my classmates shared their experiences.  We were all awed and wondered together about the nature of reality and the afterlife.  I remain charmed by the unknown and magic in life.

My grandma died suddenly when I was in my 20s.  I still hadn't gotten my mind wrapped around this new reality on the day of the funeral.  My unusually well-dressed family picked up Grandpa at his house and loaded up the car.  Mom sent me back in to make sure the back door was locked.  It was.  With my mind on getting to the funeral home, I went through the kitchen, dining room...

"Linda.", Grandma said from the kitchen.

I turned around expecting to see her.  Empty air in the arch between the 2 rooms.  Uh?



I didn't want to move.  Didn't want to break whatever just happened.  Mom tooted the horn, and I got in the car for a funeral I didn't want to attend.

For an extra oddity, Mom told me the same thing happened to Grandma when her grandma died.  She was playing piano and she heard "Laura."  That's it, nothing more.  I'm grateful Grandma said goodbye.

As for last week's rambling about giving kids candy on Halloween, Paula at Mindful Drawing shared a practice in Ireland of giving stickers out.  I think that's a great idea :)

Saturday, October 21, 2017


I looked at the candy in the grocery store and waged an internal debate with myself between love of Halloween and the perils of sugar.  I like handing out candy.  I lived for Halloween when I was a sugar-deprived child.  Today's kids get sweets all the time.  They don't appreciate it.  At the rate we're going, 1 out of 3 of them are going to end up with diabetes, partly because they eat so much processed food with sugar hidden inside.

Kids should have fun.  I picked up the candy.  I don't want to be responsible for fat, diabetic children.  I put the candy back.  I started pushing my cart forward, but not very fast.  I looked back at the candy and heard myself whimpering inside.  I thought about the leftover candy I'd get to eat and started pushing the cart away in earnest.  I don't want diabetes either.

It sucks to think about such things.  I love sugar.  I want leftover candy.  I long for cakes and pies and cookies.  I'm still whimpering inside a bit.

I don't want to come across as holier than thou about dietary health.  I'm not as fit as I should be.  I indulge in sloth and brownies, partly in continued defiance of my health freak parents.  As a child, I sulked in envy as I watched my peers eating Wonder bread sandwiches with chips and Coke.  Their peanut butter had magical preservatives and other mysterious qualities that didn't require strenuous stirring before spreading, and the luckiest kids got peanut butter with stripes of jelly already in the jar.

The peanut butter currently in my cupboard requires stirring.  I pair it with unsweetened, homemade apple butter because I like it better than jelly.  When I finally got a chance to eat Wonder bread, I choked on its unnatural cotton texture.  I see the irony.  Maybe we just can't escape our early training?

But, my early training also included my grandparents' unrestricted candy dish.  Grandma was always good for desserts, pancakes with syrup, and sprinklings of sugar on tomatoes.  Grandpa kept Vernor's ginger ale in the basement and a large container of vanilla ice cream in the freezer.  My uncle had huge metal tins of Army surplus candy.  I loved all of them, and sticky sweetness and sugar comas were part of the love.

I could give out apples at Halloween, but I remember my feelings when the neighbors down the street gave apples.  Don't get me wrong, they were really nice apples, but apples in an orchard community aren't all that special.  I didn't complain when Dad confiscated them with warnings about razor blades hidden inside.  I honestly thought Dad made that up as justification for inspecting and confiscating Halloween candy, but then the news reported on it.  How sick do you have to be to tamper with children's candy?

I have 10 days as of this writing to argue with myself about buying kids candy this year.  Sadly, I will argue with myself about it up till the 31st.  I'm pretty sure I'm the only one having this internal dialogue.  Maybe I should make caramel apples?

This apple is another bit of the painting I've been working on.  After such a long period of avoidance, I've come to love working on it.  I think I'll also love it when it's finally finished!

Saturday, October 14, 2017


I stuck my thumb with a pin when I was diapering my brother.  My thumb swelled 3 or 4 times its usual size, giving off enough heat to toast bread.  I wondered if I'd lose my thumb from gangrene while cursing the false advertising of "safety" pins.  Thankfully, my brothers all made it to adulthood and I kept my thumb.

Walter Hunt invented safety pins as a way to pay a $15 debt and got a US patent in 1849.  He sold the patent for $400 to W. R. Grace and Co. who made millions from his invention.  (I'll refrain from commenting on the exploitation of creative output and speculation about how many people lost thumbs diapering babies.)

Hardly anyone uses cloth diapers anymore.  Disposable diapers (and similar products) are a huge problem in landfills.  I diapered a baby with cloth more recently and was surprised there weren't any pins.  Just wrap the baby with the diaper, then a plastic wrapper fastened with velcro.  Voila!  Seriously, that's an even better idea than safety pins.

It may be hard to believe, but shitty diapers is actually the my better thoughts when considering "safety".  The news has been one tragedy after another.  Mass shootings, wildfires, hurricanes, genocides... None of these are simple issues with easy answers, and my president isn't invested in solving any of them anyway.  He wants 10x more nuclear weapons.  I'll agree with Rex Tillerson on at least one thing, T is a f-ing moron.

Safety is an illusion.  Bad things happen whether by accident, nature, or evil intent.  Should we live our lives locked in a safe room with an arsenal of guns?

Here some hard wisdom I've acquired through the years...

I am safe right now.  What I fear hasn't happened yet, and may never happen.

The more I focus on what I dread, the more likely I'll cause it to happen.

Fear often comes from putting other's needs, demands, and criticisms ahead of my own best interests.  Other's thoughts and priorities aren't mine and don't serve me.

All pain, emotional or physical, is temporary.  Even if you have to die to get out of it, sooner or later it's going to end.  The partner(s) I thought I couldn't live without got on with his life, and eventually, so did I.  At some point I even realized I was much happier without him (them).  My throbbing, infected thumb healed.  Lots of other physical miseries eventually passed.  Repeat "I am safe right now".

Breathe.  Deep breath in... I'm bringing healing into my life.  Deep breath out... I'm releasing what doesn't serve me.  In healing, out releasing...

The painting I've been working on is all about releasing.  This pin is another tiny part of it.  I have a freelance project to do and I keep whining to myself that I don't want to be responsible.  I want to work on my painting.  Naturally, neither the painting nor the assignment is getting done -- and it's a gorgeous day outside.  There aren't that many more sunny, summery days left this year...

Saturday, October 7, 2017


This earring is a tiny part of a 2'x4' painting I started in the beginning of 2016.  You can tell the earring is tiny from the size of the canvas weave.  I painted it with 1 hair of a brush.  That's just too tiny for me to paint, let alone see!

This painting leaned against the wall, the bookcase, the fireplace for months.  I  started to resent the damned thing because I didn't know what to do with it.  I had an idea; I just didn't know how to bring the idea into reality.  I leaned it up against a heavy chair that I had also started to resent, and varied my time between ignoring both or glaring at both.

One day, I decided to move the chair to the basement.  This was something I'd been afraid to try because when I say the chair is heavy, I mean it's really heavy with cast iron parts inside.  It's also big and awkward, with legs which prevented me from using a dolly.  There's also doors and corners to negotiate from the living room to the basement.

I shoved and hefted the thing to the top of the stairs, then realized the only way to get it down to the next step was to lean over the high back of the chair to grasp the arms, then lift, then drop, lift, drop... with visions of tumbling head over heels to the cement floor at the bottom.  I debated the pure stupidity of the risks, and did it anyway.

Somehow, the removal of the red chair made me feel more kindly towards my red painting.  I painted over some of the red with blue and felt more kindly still.  I started working on the painting in earnest.  Perhaps some people can't understand how furniture moving can have a lot to do with creative expression, but I'm pretty sure others will understand painting the living room walls might help even more.  How many artists through the ages painted glittering jewelry for those living opulent lifestyles while the artists starved and shivered in their studios while glaring at something intrusive in their spaces?

This painting has been hard for me to do because the point of it is to address negatives -- and I don't enjoy dwelling on negatives.  I want to force bad memories into the darkest places in my mind.  Elina St-Onge wrote, "Every painful emotion... is like a child in distress. When we repress them, it is as if we purposely lock this child self into a room, forcing it to relive a trauma alone and behind closed doors while we look the other way. In other words, it is self-abuse."

What if all of those painful emotions are precious inspirations?

If I ever complete this painting, you can tell me what you see in it.  In the meantime, painting it has been a journey of looking for abandoned children in locked rooms.  It's a process of discovering what really matters to me, which is often wrapped around my worst memories.  Perhaps, the only real path to happiness is through the places we avoid?

Saturday, September 30, 2017

"Time Travel"

I had a dream once...  I was told by an unknown force that time didn't behave the way I thought.  I was shown a flat piece of paper.  "You think time starts here and progresses to there."  A point on the left was indicated for the beginning, and a spot on the right for later.  "Time isn't like that."  The paper was crumpled up and a place was marked with a black marker where 2 folds touched.  "In reality, these times are close together."  The paper was smoothed out.  The black dots were far apart when the paper was flat.  "The universe has folds in it like the paper.  Some times are easily touched from the present, and the present isn't as absolute as you think."

Well!  Mess with my reality!  I couldn't imagine coming up with this idea on my own and wondered who was teaching me such things.

I woke up feeling like I ought to inform NASA or someone in authority about how time works.  Of course, I didn't.  Who needs a folder on themselves at a government agency documenting radical thinking?  (It's so much better to blog about it!)

Sometimes I think novels about time travel wouldn't exist if there wasn't some part of our minds that believes it's possible.  Why can't we peek through the veil at the past or future events?  Maybe it's just a deep desire to correct the tragedies of the past?  Anticipate the tragedies of the future?

Mostly, I try to avoid politics on this blog.  I have opinions.  I'm pretty sure regular visitors can guess my opinions.  I just want this to be a pleasant place instead of foot stomping rants about the general public's stupidity and ignorance.  Sometimes I wonder if I'd spoken up more before the last election whether or not I could've had an influence?  Probably not -- yet, what if all the sane people had spoken up more?  Maybe collectively we could've changed things?

Current events in the US and in other democracies are comparable to watching the destruction of Rome or the Nazi-fication of Germany.  Except, the present stupidity is worse than the fall of an empire or murder of specific types of people.  It will be in the 80s (F) this week in Ohio, that's not right.  People are dying in Puerto Rico and US Virgin Islands because the strength of hurricanes is part of climate change, and the government is slow to help these people because they're not white enough.  (...deleting obscenities...)  US officials aren't working to protect the safety of our elections because Russian interference worked out for Republicans.

If I could time travel, I'd like to peek ahead 50 years to see whether or not Earth still exists as we know it.  I'd go back in time and try to argue more persuasively to the idjits.

Unrelated, I have ranted about wildlife decimating my gardening efforts.  Since the groundhog kept eating my Swiss chard, I planted some in an indoor pot.  I couldn't understand why it didn't grow very well despite my best efforts.  I wondered if the groundhog had found a way inside -- and then I caught my dog eating it.  Varmints inside and out!

Friday, September 22, 2017


When I went to the Columbus College of Art and Design (CCAD), my classmates and I were welcomed and illuminated by the president of the college, Joseph Canzani.  "We will teach you to see what you've never seen before!"  My classmates got years of humor from his pompous and pretentious speech, but there was some truth to it.  If you really want to understand something, you've really got to look.

I know we've all seen the inside of a tomato.  Maybe you've studied it a little.  The act of reproducing what we see forces us to study it quite a bit more.  We think we know what it looks like, and what we think we know can overshadow what's really true.  We have to be willing to let go of what we think we know in order to truly learn what is.

For instance, I "knew" tomatoes are symmetrical.  They aren't.  They're approximately similar from side to side.  They have veins.  The seeds aren't mathematically perfect.  The inner jelly is an alien mix of red, brown, purple, and phosphorescent green.  I could go on.  Get to know your own tomatoes.  See what you've never seen before!

Once you've studied all of the wonders of tomato-ness, what then?  Do you share your new-found tomato awareness?  Don't get stuck on the tomato example.  Whether it's a tomato or listening to the other side of a political argument, have you truly looked at the issue, or are you just operating on your assumptions about it?

This week, I've been watching the Public Broadcast Service's (PBS) documentary on the Vietnam War.  I lived through these events when I was a child, and I've always been aware that the war greatly effects my world view.  I'm watching the series to get another look at those times.  In essence, to test my assumptions about the tomato.

The other night, I watched a Buddhist monk set himself on fire and burn to death.  Imagine what that was like when I was a small child.  I saw other children crying, old people crying, soldiers crying, houses burning, piles of bodies, stacks of coffins, mutilated POWs.

This Ken Burns series is excessively long in my opinion, but it's nothing like my childhood when tv was war all the time.  It wasn't like 9/11 when people acknowledged the PTSD generated by one day's footage.  People, especially kids, got counseling.  In my day, kids didn't have any real thoughts or feelings to worry about.  They'll grow out of it, and counseling is hippy dippy crap anyway.

There were some positive things that came out of all this televised violence.  I understood people of different races and places had feelings.  They bleed, they die.  Old white guys in government can be dead wrong, self-absorbed, and power hungry.  The war made me more empathetic and a committed pacifist.  In some ways, maybe it would be better if we still showed the sins of war on tv?  Maybe we'd stop the wars we're currently fighting and put that money into health care and education.

Watching the show is unpleasant for me, but I think there's a chance that it will let me see those times more clearly, to see as I've never seen before.  Though I have to admit, I'd rather study tomatoes.

Friday, September 15, 2017


This week's word instantly had me singing "Come on babe, why don't we paint the town?  And all that jazz."  I've been known to burst into musicals when circumstances require it.  There's a lyric for every human experience or weather condition.  "Oh, what a beautiful morning!"  "Soon it's gonna rain.  I can feel it."  I fondly remember sitting on a fence with Beth having a boisterous musicals sing-off while her future husband shook his head and laughed.  Hey, he knew what he was getting into.

I produced musicals and other entertainments at a community theater.  I hired directors, put in my 2¢ during auditions, sold advertising, begged donations, wrote PSAs, researched lighting and sound upgrades, maintained databases, corralled volunteers, and handed out drinks backstage.  That's just the surface tasks.  There were a lot more things to do.  I never wanted to be a producer, but I loved it.

Art is a poor career for anyone who likes big paychecks and steady employment, but it was the only career I wanted.  I've been laid off numerous times, and I've done whatever I had to do when I had to do it.  Sometimes I've been happily surprised that I liked the other jobs.  Some sucked and I sang "Working in the chain gang" (Jim Croce version).

This week, I watched a PBS show about Tyrus Wong, the artist behind "Bambi".  His influence was especially unusual since he was a Chinese immigrant, and the movie was released in 1942.  That was a hard time to be Chinese in America.

He was an awesome artist.  Think of all those beautiful backgrounds and emotional colors in Bambi.  He got screwed out of full credit for his work on the film.  He lost his job and picked asparagus to feed his family, which I have to imagine is right up there with my shoveling horse manure in unpleasantness.  Maybe worse?  At least I wasn't hunched over in a field all day every day in the blazing sun, but he didn't have to smell manure and listen to opera.  Tyrus got a job at another studio and set the visual tone for many famous movies.  He painted dishes.  He made kites.  He lived a very long and fulfilling life.

There comes a time when many of us find ourselves wondering why life is hard.  Why isn't it going the way I thought it would, or why don't I get the rewards I've earned?

Many notables through history had their own asparagus or manure periods.  Sometimes the side paths we take are unexpectedly fun like managing a theater.  Whatever we do, we take those experiences with us into our future adventures, and I think they make us better, stronger in the end.  At the very least, they can make us more humble and interesting.

I spent a stupid amount of time painting 3 large backgrounds yesterday.  At least, the plan was for them to be backgrounds.  I keep contemplating my choices.  I think I've been influenced by Tyrus Wong's less is more style and keep wondering if maybe I should let the paintings be what they are without embellishments?  I also considered putting a trumpet on one of them to fit "jazz" better, but that's just silly -- but no less silly that the paw print my puppy added at the bottom.

Friday, September 8, 2017


I went to a farmer's market and bought an eggplant.  I don't like eggplant.  I couldn't resist its purple beauty, or maybe its sensuous texture?  I don't know.  All I knew was that I had an eggplant without a plan.  I dimly thought I could make an eggplant lasagna, which is a travesty of lasagna, but the best I could think of for an eggplant.

I ignored the eggplant while making a giant pot of potato/cauliflower soup.  This was too much soup for my freezer, so I spent time defrosting and reorganizing, contemplating a previous impulse purchase of squid.  I had gone to an Italian grocery store with an Italian.  Maybe I got swept up with her enthusiasm for cooking?  I plunked the squid into the sink to defrost with the vague thought that squid was somewhat like clams, so maybe it would work in the potato soup like clam chowder.

I cut squid rings and lightly sautéed them.  Mmm.  I don't like the way squid tentacles look, so I chopped them up into indistinguishable bits, then considered my counter full of tomatoes.  I got out the eggplant and considered... yep, sauce.  More chopping... onions, garlic, pepper... oregano and basil from the garden... OMG!  I made a wonderful, accidental thing out of food I don't really like.  My dog confirmed my assessment of this sauce.  She danced in ecstatic circles.

The end result is that I have a lot of healthy food, and I spent very little money.  The only part that took any real time was chopping, but somebody else could've used a food processor and have been done in no time.  While I chopped, I thought about young'uns who don't know how to cook.  They're forever dependent on restaurants and processed foods.  That's fattening, expensive, and vitamin-deficient.  They'll never taste calamari eggplant sauce -- which I know they think they don't want, but they're missing out.

I worry about the health of young people.  They don't seem to understand food at all.  They're obviously fatter than they should be.  Okay, I'm fatter than I should be too, but they're fat and malnourished.  Or, they're anorexic or bulimic and malnourished.  They're going to suffer unnecessarily and die too young without money in the bank.

Cooking doesn't have to be hard.  Yesterday, I put a little water in a pot, added Swiss chard, put on the lid, turned on the heat... 10 minutes later, food.  To tell the truth, I grazed on the chard before it was even cooked.  Whatever.  Swiss chard is good for you and really easy.  I have a couple of squashes.  Cut in half, scoop out seeds, bake until soft.  Add butter.  These will go in the freezer too for days that I don't feel like cooking.  I nuked an ear of corn in its husk.  Done.  More butter.

Eat real food.  Stop Monsanto from genetically modifying our food.  Buy local.  Buy what's in season.  Grow something.  Learn to cook.

BTW, I figured out why I've been especially plagued by wildlife this year.  My neighbor a couple doors down used to keep a big garden, but he didn't put one in this year.  I guess it's up to me to feed all the critters.  To make matters worse, my groundhog got a girlfriend.  She's the biggest groundhog I've ever seen, brimming with health, with a shimmering coat.  She eats vegetables.  My vegetables.  I'll admit I took time to admire her and even forgot to send her death rays for a few minutes.  My original groundhog looks at her with absolute adoration.  I dread the inevitable babies, who will also be terribly cute and glistening with (my) vegetable health.

Sunday, September 3, 2017


There will be a lot of swords in response to "Samurai", so I thought I'd go with armor.  Self-defense is good, and Samurai armor is interesting.  It's light-weight, flexible, and ingeniously designed to baffle weapons.  It certainly beats the heavy steel cans European knights wore.  Japanese soldiers could even perform basic toilet functions without the help of a squire.

While making my samurai armor, I've been thinking about what to say about self-defense.  It's a touchy subject for me because I've been attacked in various ways throughout my life.  Discussing my armor feels like admitting vulnerabilities that I don't want to share.

Yet... being vulnerable is important to communicating.  I listened to a program the other day that talked about how people addicted to their smart phones are more anxious and depressed people than those who aren't glued to their devices.  Think about it, if all you're doing is reading about others' perfect lives and inspirational retweets, or if your sharing is limited to 140 characters, how much of yourself have you shared?  Why would someone care about you?  You haven't given them much to care about.

The same is true with creative expression.  Aren't you touched when a singer breaks down during a song because the lyrics touch something vital inside?  The singer's sobs might cause you to cry too.  The touching lyrics were written about the most moving or painful experiences.  It takes courage to share those feelings.  Whatever your medium, if you want to be great, you've got to be vulnerable.

When you're vulnerable, there will be people who will take that as a sign to attack.  Think of any person who is widely admired and you will find trolls in the margins.  It's a balancing act to be both open and protected.  You don't have to be a movie star to have malicious stalkers.  Maybe they won't shoot you dead as happened to John Lennon, or chase you to your death like Princess Diana, but they can still do their best to make you miserable.  Will others' malicious behaviors still your voice?

It's oft-said that you are unique.  No one else was born with exactly your talents, living in the same time and circumstances.  You have something to express in your own unique way.  Will you?

We have to look at the armor we've grown so accustomed to wearing.  Are we protecting ourselves from others, or are we protecting ourselves from ourselves?  Are we brave enough to let others see what we have inside?  Can we face our own fears?

It seems to me the ideal way to live is akin to samurai armor.  Light-weight and comfortable, it served its purpose without limiting movement.  In other words, you don't have to let all of your vulnerabilities go unprotected.  Have armor, but have armor that lets your light shine through.

Friday, August 25, 2017


When I was a teenager, I put thumbtacks in the soles of my shoes.  When bored in class, I'd quietly tap dance under my desk.  How many classmates did I irritate?  My tapping started as an accident; I stepped on a thumbtack.  I felt like Quasimodo unevenly tapping down the school hall, so I added a thumbtack to the other shoe.  How many silly things are forever trapped in my brain?  Sometimes it seems endless.

A cicada was loudly advertising his romantic desires the other night.  He was so loud I thought he'd gotten into my bedroom, but no, he was outside.  He must've gotten lucky because he eventually shut up, and I fell asleep.  The next day, I found cicada shells all over my few remaining tomato plants.  I used to wear them as jewelry when I was a little kid.  Now, I feel all ew, ew, ew about touching them, and I thought something's wrong about that.  It's just an empty shell.  So what if it has too many legs?  Who taught me to be creeped out by legs?

I sat down and drew cicada studies.  Once I started looking at them, they're really rather interesting.  They have claw feet and bristles all over their legs, which is why they're so easy to wear as jewelry.  They have ugly faces if you look too closely, but their googly eyes are rather cute.  I simply don't understand how a giant insect can squash itself into such a small, hard shell.  I especially don't understand how it could extract it's antennae from that shell.
I'm procrastinating.  I told you in March that I started a book.  Now it's pretty much written, and I need a spectacular letter which will inspire a publisher to publish it.  I swear, writing the book was easier than writing the letter.

I gave the book to a friend and asked for feedback.  She admitted she wasn't psyched to read it.  For some mysterious reason the topic of Catholicism didn't appeal to her.  There's no accounting for taste.  I drove to New York and actually plugged it into the computer for her (which sounds more impressive than it was since I can get to her house in 2 hours, and it's very pleasant to spend time with her at Lake Chautauqua).

She called this morning to chastise me for keeping her up all night because she couldn't put the book down.  (Yay!!!)  She almost called at 1:30 a.m. because she was "laughing my ass off!"  I don't know if this was actually my goal, but sure, I'll take humorous.  It beats pedantic and dull at any rate.  She gave me more words to put in my letter to the publishers: easy to read, informative, inspirational, scathing, appalling, shocking, mind-blowing, laugh out loud hysterical, disturbing...  I wish she'd write my letter for me.

I'm going to try to get a conventional publisher (let me know if you have any contacts!), but I'll self-publish if that doesn't work out.  Stay tuned and keep your fingers crossed!

I suppose I'll have to get back to trying to writing my letter, but now I'm daydreaming about a cicada tap dancing amongst the tomatoes.
Purple beans that turn green when cooked.  The groundhog took this to the ground multiple times.  The only thing that saved it was letting the weeds grow taller than the beans.
Swiss Chard -- the groundhog ate this to the ground many times too so I'm happy to have actual leaves

Spaghetti Squash

Found a living example.  He posed very nicely for me.
You've gotta admit he's kind of cute in his cicada kind of way :)