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!

Sunday, December 4, 2016

"Soup"

I make soup when I'm stressed.  The mindless chopping calms my mind.  My freezer is full of it: chili, lentil, potato, squash/bean, chicken/turkey.  There isn't room for more varieties, though I contemplate making some split pea soup and clam chowder anyway.  It doesn't help that I make gallons of each variety.  At this point my dog loves soup more than I do.

Besides eating soup, I've been reading a lot because I don't think TV is improving my life and I might as well learn something.  I went to the library and really thought about my childhood experience of being surrounded by books.  How I had made sense of the place?  How did I choose my books?  I stood in the library entry, really looking at the place for once.

There are displays all over the place.  Sometimes I borrow a book from a display, but this time I noticed a sampling pointed me to books beginning with numbers 300-500.  Oh.  Seems kind of obvious now.  I dutifully went to those bookshelves where I skipped wars and found a couple of books on childhood trauma.

Did you know victims of child abuse suffer long-term physical effects from their experiences?  People who suffered multiple types of abuse including physical, sexual, neglect, verbal, etc. are likely to die years before their more blessed peers.  They can die 20 years earlier, often from heart attacks, cancer, addictions, and adult abuse.  The experts are saying we need to quit sweeping the topic under the rug as the long-term effects of childhood trauma are the leading cause of death.

I'm not just reading heavy topics like this.  I've been switching back and forth between escapist fiction and learning new stuff.  I don't know what else I'll be learning.  There are a lot of books in 300-500 and I almost went back for history books in another section as I was heading to the check out counter.  I already had 4 books and I've decided that 4 is enough for the library's 3 week borrowing window.  If I use them up, I'll just get more and start a new 3 week window.

I've gotten old enough to be ingrained in some of my ways.  Looking at the library with fresh eyes makes my world bigger and better, as does learning new things.  When I put myself in my younger self, I can feel the excitement the library meant to me.  Every aisle was an adventure, and every book an opportunity.  Reading about other people, real or imaginary, let me try on their lives to see if I wanted to be like them when I grew up.

Maybe I still want to look at the lives of others to see what I want to be?  We're only limited by our imaginations.  I could study Buddhism or Jane Goodall or who knows what.  May everyone spend some time wandering their library.  And eat soup.  It's good for you.  I meant to put soup in the bowl but after this art existed it just felt better to let the bowl either be waiting for a serving or empty because the soup has been eaten and enjoyed.  Your choice, half empty or half full? :)

Saturday, November 26, 2016

"Tape"

My grandparents taped all sorts of unlikely things together.  I found a crystal lamp I admired was broken and "cellophane" taped together when I was clearing out their house, not to mention other broken and taped things I discovered.  I could've been disappointed by the damage, but I was glad they were resourceful, and grateful they let kids play amongst their treasures.  This tolerance, support, and example had a lot of impact on my development -- necessary towards success according to GRIT The Power of Passion and Perseverance by Angela Duckworth.

Angela's book is well researched and readable.  It also challenges a lot of what many of us think about achieving success.  Let me summarize her main point like this: what matters most is how hard someone is willing to work towards success, and people aren't willing to work that hard unless they have passion for what they're doing.

I've gotten irritated when people have said "You're so talented!"  Most people don't understand my irritation because they think that's a compliment, but I'd like my hard work to get noticed.  I've put in a crazy amount of time, money, and study into my art.  I put in all that time because I enjoyed it and got occasional praise for it, key factors towards success per Angela.

I was also musically talented, but didn't pursue that.  There was a nice girl in my chorus with much less "talent".  It would be generous to call her a "fair" singer.  I saw her many years later and discovered she's a professional singer with a voice that puts mine to shame.  She studies and practices obsessively to always get better.  Good for her and congratulations for her success.

The prevailing wisdom is if you spend 10,000 hours (10 yrs.) studying and practicing something, you'll become an expert.  You won't put that much time into something unless you're really passionate about it.  You also won't get that many hours into something if you spread your passions to multiple topics of study.

I've been giving this a lot of thought.  If you'd asked me to identify my one passion before reading this book, I would've answered "art".  Now, I wonder if that's true.  Yes, I've spent my 10,000 hrs. and more, my heart palpitates at a masterpiece, but I haven't been painting like I once did.  If I look at my efforts in the last couple years, I've spent more time studying narcissism than on art.  I'm well on my way to being a narcissist "expert" (to the stretched patience of some who hear me talk about it).

I look at the things I care about: art, writing, politics, history, psychology, education, the environment... and feel concerned Angela would say I'm too spread out for my best success.  What is the connecting thread?  After some serious soul searching, I think my personal mission statement is understanding myself and others in order to achieve better mental health and happiness -- and I'd like to share the things I've learned through the talents I've spent my 10,000 hours upon.

There are too many things in the book for me to consolidate into a 1-page blog post.  I hope you read the book.  I got a lot out of it and I hope you do too.

This is another piece I did for the Mensa Bulletin for a fictional article about wanting to break out of school.  I don't think even Grandpa could tape that wall back together.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

"Spider"

I was in the eaves of my house the other day.  I don't go in there very often, but I keep old furniture in there, and had some items I wanted to tuck away.  I should've looked first, but I went in head first and got a faceful of spider webs.  Ick, ack, yuck!

I swept it out and stored the furniture, plus discovered about 100 years of Grandpa's National Geographics.  I thought back to lazy days on his porch, listening to old folks talk about the usual things while I looked at African women's breasts, Indian women's nose rings, Eskimo's harpoons, South American pyramids, and Russian mummies.

My sister thought the nose ring was very cool and wanted one.  Dad said something decisively prohibitive.  I said it wasn't very practical since it had a golden chain looped to an earring.  Picture climbing a tree with a chain hanging out of your face!  What if you got in a fight and your opponent had a ring?  I vividly imagined a bleeding nose and decided this kind of jewelry was foolishness.  Sis understood suffering for beauty.  I rejected the concept.  If the number of people with nose rings these days mean anything, more people think like Sis these days.  She was clearly a trend setter.

I know I'm not alone in having my world expanded by National Geographic.  I looked into the eyes of people far away and felt their humanity even though I lived in a lily white area and the only black person I'd met was Santa Claus.  I saw women archeologists, deep sea divers, anthropologists, and animal watchers and knew I could grow up to be whatever I wanted to be.

A friend of mine rejected a job offer with National Geographic.  As a photographer, how could he possibly walk away from such an opportunity?!  "I didn't want to lay on my belly in a swamp for weeks just to get the perfect photo of an alligator staring me in the eyes."  Well, I suppose that makes sense.  But still, I'm glad somebody is willing to do it.  My world was larger and more inclusive because of their sacrifices.

I talked with someone about selling Grandpa's magazines once.  I was told everyone saved their National Geographics, so there really isn't much value to them.  Financial value that is, because I still value being able to look at them.  They're beautiful and they make me 10 years old again on Grandpa's front porch with the delicious aroma of Grandma cooking lunch wafting in.  I'd be willing to sell the really early magazines before photos though.

There's also something beautiful in the fact that many people saved their collections.  I'm glad so many appreciated expanding their worlds through the work of scientists, writers, and photographers.  It was worth a faceful of spider webs in my eaves to remind me of their efforts.

There's been much talk of bigotry and chauvinism this week.  Maybe more people need to dust off their pile of National Geographics and look into the eyes of people who might look different, but are humans with feelings, hopes, and dreams?

Saturday, November 12, 2016

"Aquatic"

I am just a little fish in a big ocean.  My one vote doesn't count for much, but in this election the majority of Americans voted with me -- and we still lost the election.  One shark can take out a lot of fish which is why fish often swim together for protection.

I accept the results of the election, while wanting to smack some heads (bigly).  I fear for the future, especially when I hear Sara Palin's name being floated for the Secretary of the Interior.  Everything I value, education, women's rights, the environment, world peace, a stable economy, feels precarious.

Such is the way of American politics.  I had hoped for a sensible election, but there were an awful lot of Trump yard signs in Ohio.  I was afraid, and sadly, that fear was justified.  Candidates and voters have the ability to be inspiring or not.  Hopefully we can salvage things in 4 years, and I really hope many of the current idjits will be voted out in 2 years.

I don't have much confidence in President Trump, actually none, but I have to accept they get a turn to mess things up for a while.  The eternal optimist in me hopes that there's some chance the idjits might actually accomplish something worthwhile without causing Armageddon.  If end times come, I kind of hope I get blown up in the first wave instead of watching the painful disintegration of our republic and world.

Elizabeth Warren gave a speech that echoes many of my thoughts and feelings about the election.  She commits to helping Trump if he strives to work towards positive changes.  She also commits to fighting him every step of the way if he works against the values we hold dear.  I'm with Elizabeth all the way.  If she runs for president in 4 years, I will happily knock on doors and do whatever I can to make sure she is our first woman president -- which actually would bring me greater joy than Hillary being our first as Warren is inspiring, intelligent, knowledgeable, and ethical.

I know many people share my fears for the future.  After all, we are the majority.  We need to remember this next time we vote.  Sometimes a good can come from disappointment.  Until then, let's remember Michael Moore's advice which he wants us to start implementing now...

Take over the Democratic party
Fire the pundits and pollsters
Obstruct Republicans in Congress
Stop saying you're "shocked"
Repeat: "Clinton won the popular vote"

Saturday, November 5, 2016

"Steam"

Did you know steam is hotter than boiling water?  That's how pressure cookers can cook food faster than a regular pan.  I never use a pressure cooker.  A girl I knew got badly burned with one when we were kids and that scared me off of them.  Fear can be a useful self-protection and hot air can be dangerous... which of course brings me to politics.

I promised myself that I wouldn't write about the election until November, mostly because I didn't think my perfectly reasonable statements on the matter would matter enough.  Facts won't sway people who want to elect Trump.  I've decided to talk to those who can be persuaded to put on their shoes and vote for the sane candidate.

Psychiatrists keep saying things about Trump such as "of course I can't diagnose someone I haven't met, so let me talk about sociopaths and narcissists in a general way..." and then they describe crazy, selfish, and dangerous, implying without exactly saying that's what Trump is.  I'm not a psychiatrist, so let me say it for them.  Trump is a sociopathic narcissist.  There's no way he should be trusted with any aspect of our futures.

I started studying cults and narcissism about 1 1/2 years ago.  I'm pretty sure that everyone around me is sick to death hearing about it, but I can't help but share what I've learned in my research.  You can see some of the traits of narcissists here, and there's loads of excellent information on the subject online.

It frightens me that Trump could actually win this election because there's no telling what he'd actually do in that position.  There's no comfort in thinking the people he's surrounded himself with would be any more sane or responsible than he is.  They're insane too.  Chris Christy is supervising aspects of Trump's operations and Christy's people were convicted this week for vengefully shutting down a major bridge and causing massive traffic jams because another politician wouldn't support him.  Multiple people said in the trial that Christy knew about it in advance.  He might end up going to prison too.  One of Trump's party friends was convicted for pedophilia.  A case has been filed against Trump for pedophilia too.  His first wife testified in court that he raped and beat her.

One of the problems (of the many problems) in this election has been the smear campaign against Hillary Clinton.  This is a classic move by narcissists.  I won't say she's a perfect person or candidate, but after decades of investigations, her enemies have never been able to bring her to court -- but the smear campaign has made many people question her actions and motives despite the fact that she has worked for decades for the well-being of others.

If you're a die-hard Republican, well, do what you're going to do, even though Trump doesn't support your Republican goals.  If you're a Republican that can't abide by your candidate, please stay home or vote for a third party candidate.  But, if you are any kind of sane person who wants to make sure we don't have a sociopathic president, pleeease get out on Election Day and vote for Hillary.

I recently did illustrations on bad presidents for the Mensa Bulletin, the monthly magazine for America Mensa.  Just remember, none of them had access to nuclear codes.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

"Stripes"

You would think that there's only so many things you can do with stripes, but the options are endless.  Fat, narrow, pink, blue, straight, wavy, patterns in between, patterns in the stripes... on and on and on.  In case you can't tell, I've done a lot stripes.  You'd think I'd get bored with them, but I don't really.  It's like a simple toy that never ceases to please.

I did these boxes two years in a row for Gift Corp (though only kept photos of one year's boxes).  One year, the stripes were simple.  The other year, I changed up the stripes with different widths and dots.  I'd like to say that stripes are so simple it's all easy money -- but it isn't.  There were a lot of variations before everyone was happy and I got paid.

I always notice boxes in stores.  Every box has an artist somewhere in the process, whether it's Tony the Tiger breakfast cereal or generic air fresheners.  I've been known to go through all of the Kleenex boxes on the top shelf to find the prettiest pattern to keep on my desk.  I feel like my purchase rewards the best artist, even though artists aren't paid commission, but maybe the best artists get appreciated a little more by their employers?

I sometimes get annoyed that "commercial" art is less valued than "fine" art.  Okay, maybe stripes aren't going to get people very excited at an art gallery, but illustrators make beautiful art with a lot more restrictions and headaches than someone who paints whatever they want to paint.  Norman Rockwell, N. C. Wyeth, and many more illustrators were remarkable artists, "even though" they were illustrators.

I was visiting friends recently and noticed a Charley Harper book.  I happily looked through his images and was inspired, comforted, intrigued, and more as I thought about how much his art influenced my childhood environment.  How much of his work was commercial, and how much fine, and what difference did it make?  Good art is good for everyone, no matter if it's a zoo poster or a one-of-a-kind painting.  In fact, I'm enough of a populist to think the more people with the poster, the better it is for our whole society.

Another friend came to my house for the first time.  I'll admit, I can be a bit self-conscious about first-time visits because once in a while I notice that my home is eccentric and eclectic (and usually messy).  In other words, different than the ways most people decorate.  I don't own a beige wall or a properly fluffed accent pillow.  It's just easier to meet at a restaurant than to host people.  At the same time, it always fascinates me to see what other people notice when they come over.  Yeah, large painting on the floor will get noticed, but beyond that, where do their eyes land?

This stripe pattern was also
used as a tower of boxes
In this case, my friend commented on a large painting I did of rocks, though that wasn't what she looked at the most.  She looked at my Charley Harper inspired raccoon longer.  I suspect she just didn't know what to say about it.  Maybe she wasn't sure if she liked it.  I didn't ask, but after she left, I studied my raccoon and felt the same kinds of good feelings I felt when I looked through the Charley Harper book.  Maybe in the end that's the best thing we can hope to achieve through our art?  Even if we achieve pleasant feelings through something as simple as stripes?

Friday, October 7, 2016

"Ice"

I looked at my ice cubes yesterday and remembered drawing them not so long ago.  When I saw the word for the week, I looked them up because I thought "This is ridiculous!  I just did 'ice'!"  As it turns out, in March, 2015.  Oh my.  I think I'm getting old when time just starts sliding away really fast and we're decrepit and on a walker in no time.  My aunt warned me about this twisted reality.

Depending on the day I'm thinking about it, I either feel young or old.  Not young like a child or teenager or anything, just young enough that I can still do whatever I want to do.  I feel like there's still plenty of time to achieve things and really live.  On another day, I might feel like too many things ache and I'm inches from the grave and can't do anything spectacular anymore.

Both things are true, neither are true.  Life is what you make it, whatever your age.

I've been thinking of writing something for a while, in a vague kind of way.  I started a novel years ago.  I felt happy about what I had started too, and then it started descending into soppy and sloppy ideas that seemed like too much effort to clean up. I'm thinking of digging it out and looking at it again.

I know one of my self-sabotaging tendencies.  I'll look at it, it won't be great, and I'll think, "Why do it if it isn't earth-shaking?"  Well, why not?  Why stop myself from something just because it isn't the best?  I know lots of you have some variation of this even though we know that we have to put effort into things to gain the skill to do something well.  How much time did we put into learning to read and write in the first place?

I think it just depends on whether or not we enjoy an activity enough to perfect it, and "perfection" is an illusion anyway.  Sometimes I like to write.  Words flow out of me easily, and I enjoy that ease.  Sometimes it feels really, really hard and I have enough hard things to deal with.

When I make ice cubes, I don't worry about "perfect" cubes.  I just want cold tea.  If I'm feeling a bit whimsical, I might put a flower in the water first.  I made an apple cake, and supplemented my apples with over-ripe pears.  I wondered if it would work, but I didn't feel like my self identity hinged on creating the latest, greatest thing.

There's something about putting things out into the world that opens us up to fear of judgment.  I experienced those fears when I started blogging.  Now that I've been doing this a while, it feels like those fears were a million lifetimes ago.  I notice what other people prefer reading, but I'm not afraid anymore.  If you don't like this week's post, come back next week and see if you like that post better.  Hopefully I've gotten better at it with experimentation.

Yes, maybe it's time to dust off that book beginning?  Winter is coming and cold, dark days sound like the perfect time to try.

(And yes Sharon, you have inspired me with your own writing efforts on The Chorus of Crows!)