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, May 25, 2018

"Guinea Pig"

I've been thinking this blog has been too heavy lately.  Write a cute story, a nostalgic story.  What's the word for the week?  (2 words actually.)  Guinea pig.  I only have one story about that, and while there might be some nostalgia in it, I'm not so sure about cute.

Well, it started cute.  My 2nd grade class parented a guinea pig.  It rustled around in its paper strips and wood chips during class.  It called "Weet, weet, weet!" when all the kids trooped in.  We took turns feeding it carrots and giving it love.  I adored it.  I happily swapped out the soiled bedding when it was my turn, and just as happily did the task for prissier classmates.

It was a wonderful, age-appropriate classroom experience... Until.  Until the disaster.  Someone left the bag of high protein pellets too close to the cage on a Friday and the guinea pig ate and ate and ate until it exploded.  Thankfully, the teacher was the only one who actually saw our exploded pet and shushed us quickly out of the room until she had cleaned up whatever needs cleaned up from an exploded guinea pig.  We weren't allowed to have any more pets in class after that, which I thought was quite a shame.  I would've loved to have a class dog, or even a fish tank.  We grew beans in Styrofoam cups instead, which you have to admit lacks the same kind of cuddling ops as a guinea pig.

Even with the disaster, I still think it was a good experience for our class.  We learned about the consequences of shirking our responsibilities.  We learned about death and shared our grief.  We cemented our sense of empathy.  We explored our sense of humor as a coping skill with many, many exploding jokes.

I look back at this and think to myself that it couldn't have been 2nd grade.  I had Mrs. Brinnager back then, and she was a caricature of severity.  She had a permanently clenched fist from some kind of medical issue, a red splotch in the middle of her lined forehead, and wild gray hairs haloing her face despite her strict bun.  She was beyond firm in her rules, and quick to punish offenders.  I'd watch her bony stride across the playground and think "Oh no!" even when I was completely innocent because she constantly looked angry.

Mrs. Brinnager looked like the Wicked Witch of the West, but she was kind to give us a guinea pig.  She taught us things.  She granted terse compliments when merited.  By comparison, my evil 1st grade teacher looked like Glinda the Good Witch.  The unintended lesson of don't judge a book by its cover was a life-long lesson -- though I was even happier with my 3rd grade teacher who was both attractive and nice.

It's strange to me that so many people don't remember their teachers.  I think I remember them all, both good and bad.  Some of them were extraordinary people, and some should never be allowed near children.  And both good and bad, they impacted my life.  It's hard to spend so much time with someone without feeling that impact even when we don't consciously remember them.

To the good teachers, thank you!

Sunday, May 20, 2018


Have you ever felt sorry for Goliath?  Maybe you don't really know the story, just that the young hero David triumphed over the giant with a rock.  In a nutshell, the Jews and Philistines had a war, Goliath was a giant, the Philistines' biggest, most fearsome warrior.  Goliath waged a psychological war by coming out every morning and challenging the Jews to send a champion to fight him one on one, victor wins the war.  David, a shepherd, hears the challenge.  Instead of fighting hand to hand, he uses his sling to kill Goliath with a rock.  David cut off Goliath's head and David is a hero forever more.

Maybe Goliath was just a braggart?  Maybe he just wanted the war to end?  Maybe he knew that taunting the Jews was keeping his side alive?  Since victors always write the history, the Jews tell this story as the true religion triumphing over the infidels.

David was brave, but maybe he was an idiotic young kid who hadn't seen enough of life to know he might be in over his head, but since his tactics won nobody seems to question whether or not he played fair.  He was clever and God was on his side.

I'm not preaching religion by talking about David and Goliath.  Whatever the religious ramifications, this is an old story which is believed by Jews, Muslims, and Christians.  I suspect most believe the story as it's told without looking very deeply into it, if they bother to read it at all.  What I'm trying to say is there's always more than one side to the story, even if the losers don't get to write it.

The war between the Jews and Philistines never ended.  We just call the Philistines Palestinians now and they're David at this point and the Jews are Goliath.  The Palestinians literally threw rocks this week while the Jews mowed them down with gunfire.  We're still fighting the same religious wars that we've been fighting for millennium.  I sincerely wish it would stop.

Every side of every war, each side thinks God is with them and not the enemy.  In most cases, both sides are praying to the same God.  Horrific things are done.  Whatever bad things happen because of us, well, that's unfortunate but forgivable.  Whatever bad things happen because of our enemies, they're evil.  Kill them.

What if Jews welcomed Palestinians as equals?  What if they shared power and worked towards agreements?  What if they just got together and honestly tried to get to know each other without weapons?  What if others stayed out of the fight?

I reshaped the flower beds in front of my house this week.  A neighbor went out of his way to tell me I'd done a good job.  It cost him nothing, but it made me feel good.  I gave him tomato plants.  He feels good.  I volunteered to plant the city's planters.  That's a task off a city worker and we're both happier.  What if more people looked outside of themselves to see what they can do to spread some happiness?

Power shifts and morphs.  If you're Goliath now, be careful, you might meet a David.  Maybe you'll become a David.  Plan ahead by getting along with your neighbors.  Send them some love.  Compliment their flowers.

Saturday, May 12, 2018


I almost varnished a hair into my latest art therapy project, which if it had escaped my notice would've irritated me until the end of time.  Maybe my OCD tendencies require some attention?  I feel like I've been working on this piece forever, but I guess it's been just over a month.  Keep in mind, I wasn't actual painting all that time.  Sometimes I ignored it or just carried the painting around my house and pondered it and the issues I wanted to resolve.  My dog follows me around and sleeps when I settle somewhere.

The composition turned into a hairy nightmare because I'm letting these paintings grow in their own ways as I discover new ideas about the issues I'm pondering.  It's so much easier when I know what I want to paint in the first place, but I'm loving the challenge of these projects, and when I get to the point when I actually sign them I feel joy.  I even enjoy looking at these paintings when they're done, which I think is an odd result when I'm painting about unpleasant events in my life.

Part of the pleasure is finding good times during periods I've remembered as blanket negativity.  I racked up quite a few honors and accomplishments.  I met really interesting and influential people.  I helped kids rack up honors and accomplishments too.  I stood on a stage and gave speeches to hundreds of people without passing out.

At the same time, the people were truly terrible.  Two of them are currently in prison.  I was repeatedly threatened, assaulted, harassed, and stalked.  My house and office were repeatedly broken into.  I couldn't get support from anyone including legal authorities, relatives, or friends.  And oh yeah, one of those friends was having an affair with my husband.  Bleak times.  My health suffered.

In times like this it's hard to see life getting better, yet it did -- and then the cycle repeated, which is often the case because when I shut the door on that past I failed to examine some critical lessons.  I kept people in my life who failed me when I needed them, so it shouldn't have been a surprise they didn't help me when new problems entered my life.  I was still surprised and disappointed.

Victims are told not to talk about negatives.  Think happy thoughts.  Quit dwelling on the past.  Forgive.  No.  Perhaps these advisors live rosy lives without this kind of grief, but I suspect a lot of people can relate to some of my miseries after witnessing the Me Too movement.  Me Too gives victims a voice they've been denied, and I think there's something very healing about hearing their stories and empathizing with their pain.

I boohooed about getting divorced and found the sun shone more brightly on the other side of the courthouse.  I worried about money and earned more after getting out of that hellhole.  Life gets better, and bad cycles don't have to repeat when we own the cycles of the past.  It takes some honest soul searching and effort, but it's worth it.

I think it's time for me to take a break from art therapy though.  Something happy?  Less intense?  But let me encourage everyone to find their own self expression and growth.  Maybe something that doesn't include itsy bitsy portraits?

And yes, I stretched the "hairy" topic this week even though I have lots of art with hairy subjects.  Sometimes it's just better to follow our own music!

Friday, May 4, 2018


I think I'm pretty easy to get along with.  If you believe and do things differently than me, okay.  Live and let live.  All I ask is that you treat me with the same liberty.  Of course, people aren't like that.  They want you to believe and do the same as themselves, and anything other than that is seen as a challenge that must be overcome or destroyed.  I can't change my inquisitive, questing temperament, so I imagine you can see the difficulties I've encountered.

I was the same as a child.  I went to church every week and did my best to follow the rules, but then they described heaven as a glimmering city with streets paved in gold.  I was horrified.  There was no way I wanted to spend eternity in a city on my knees saying endless hosannas -- without dogs!  Sounded like a hell to me.  My adults had an impossible task in trying to make this sound like a reward for good behavior.

I went back home to my utopian woods and river and pondered deeply why God wanted me to live in a city on my knees.  It was just one thing of many that didn't make sense.  So, even though I'm easy to get along with, I was sometimes called a difficult child.  I suppose I still am?  Perhaps we all are until the adults force us into conformity?  Then, we become the adults forcing conformity.  I don't think any of this makes us happy.

This isn't just about religion; it's everything.  Everybody says you should want to be married.  Tried that; it didn't work for me.  Everybody told me to be an engineer.  I became an artist.  On and on and on.  I'm sure you have your own list of "ought tos", "have tos".  What I've come to realize is that the advice others push on us is the advice they'd like to take themselves.  It's what they want, and they want you do it for them.

I've always thought the golden rule should be do unto others as they would have you do unto them.  Not how you want to be treated, how they want to be treated.  Otherwise, it's extraverts forcing shy people to parties or introverts forcing extraverts to sit quietly.  Or simcity civil engineers forcing me into an eternity of their concept of heaven when I need trees and dogs.

I was asked a while ago to describe my perfect life.  I spent weeks considering my answer.  Eventually, I came to understand that perhaps I'm living it.  Well, keep in mind this was before I spent so much time scrubbing my basement free of mold and mouse poop, but still.  (And for the record, I'm still scrubbing.  My allergies won't allow me to work on it any faster.)

The point is, decide for yourself what you want, and appreciate it when you have it.  If your ideal afterlife is a golden city, mazel tov.  I'd like to think God will provide a place in the woods for people like me -- with dogs.  And paint.  I would hope that making art would count towards my hosannas :D