Wednesday, August 5, 2015

ArtPride Art Map of New Jersey

It was an honor yesterday to work with the Board of Trustees of ArtPride New Jersey during their annual board retreat.  The project was to create a New Jersey map on wood not with roads or boundaries or counties but as plotted points representing the arts - organizations, communities, events, galleries, theaters, experiences, individual artists, etc...

I will update you later with the finished project which will hang in the ArtPride headquarters in Burlington, NJ.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015


Let me get this out of the way at the top.  The following is my opinion based on the facts that I know which are either what I directly heard, observed or of which I have written proof.  The following is not knowingly false, nor does it contain a reckless disregard for the statement's truth.

Yes, that's how bad this has gotten.

No, it does not make sense to me either.

Yes, there is a solution.

Two weeks ago, I went into my local City Council meeting and spoke in a tone and about a topic more honestly than I have in the last three years.  Some were shocked at the change in my demeanor which is more often calm and controlled in public.  Anyone that has spoken to me about this topic off the record and in casual conversation will see my blood pressure rise and superlatives fly rather quickly over the details but that has not been my public face and for good reason.  Perhaps not for good reason.  Perhaps none of this would have happened if I had only marched into City Council explaining this three years ago.  And so my intention is to relieve some of my own stress in explaining my point of view and to shed some light for those who find that recent reactions are out of the blue.  Nothing could be further from the truth.

I am one of the creators of the FAF, an arts festival which ran for two years in the City of Woodbury right outside of Philadelphia.  It began as all worthy things should, with no plans.  It was the brainchild of myself and another new face in the City who just happened to be an internationally successful event planner and marketing guru.  I'm sure she does more than that but to this day, I couldn't explain it all.  What she understood was how to throw an event and what we knew right away was that while we had very different professions, we worked the same - tirelessly until the work is done. 

The festival was pitched as a program under the local Main Street chapter and was, in that first meeting, well received.   The idea was intricately designed.  The details would follow and the framework would be filled in by the volunteers but the goals were pretty clear from the start.  1. It had to exceed expectations to combat the overwhelming negativity associated with the City.  We were new here so we didn't really understand where this negativity came from but it was a hurdle that we had to get over.  2. We had to bring people into the City.  Seems pretty obvious but so many hard working volunteers before us had tried to rely on just the residents to fill events or activities and it just hadn't worked.  We didn't know why that strategy had proved fruitless but nevertheless, we set our goal for reaching out into the region, a region which had once upon a time looked to Woodbury as a center for arts and culture and commerce.  3.  This had to be built as a grassroots campaign.  It was designed to work from the ground up, to bring people together in a united cause which would give it strength and growth from the beginning. 

It worked.  It worked better than anticipated and certainly faster than expected but the work was increasingly more difficult as it took off.  What started as 7 people in a room became 20, 40, 75 and by the end, we would top over 300 volunteers total and we needed every single one with as much time and brilliance and connection as they were willing to offer.  They were artists, professionals, citizens, arts advocates, merchants, local leaders.  Every age.  Every walk of life.  We were researching ideas, planning, expanding our network, finding artists and sponsors and starting from zero with everything.  Zero funding.  Zero artists.  Zero track record.  To succeed, everything had to be taken to another level.  So, we didn't just post ads asking for artists.  The build-it-and-they-will-come idea doesn't actually work.  We made thousands of individual phone calls and emails recruiting the quality of artist we wanted to attend.  Then we'd go, sometimes out of state to every festival, event or gallery we could find to talk to anyone who would listen about the FAF in Woodbury.  Where?  Yes, that's right in Woodbury.  Then we created graphics with a vibrant, professional look and designed a series of postcards and media that could attract an audience.  Then we had dozens of volunteers spreading out throughout the region, down into Delaware and up into northern NJ getting those pieces of media into every coffee shop hipster gallery open mic whatever that we could find.  Every aspect of the FAF was planned that way, taken to another level by our leadership and with the passion of an ever growing volunteer base.  The volunteers are what made it and what makes any other way futile.  Hiring an outside event company to come in and put something together might get you a pretty good event but it doesn't get you ownership and commitment from your community.  We were building a community advocacy movement but didn't know it.  Yet.

Eventually, the idea started to take shape and we tipped the scales from begging to trying to keep up.  All of the sudden, we were forging partnerships with major regional organizations and not just in the arts.  There was the Philadelphia Art Alliance and Appel Farm and the Noyes but there were others as well, wineries and breweries and local businesses all talking to us about Woodbury and Woodbury was our favorite subject.  Inside the City, we started to feel a change as well.  Organizations that hadn't worked together before or for a long time were now showing common interest.  Volunteers were coming out of the woodwork, some who had lost faith in the City years ago, others who were new here and wanted to give their time.  And give their time they did.  The pace became feverish and we were barely keeping our heads above water. 

As the months drew closer to September, there was little to no input from the Board of Trustees of Main Street Woodbury.  What became abundantly clear was that our pace and the pace at which their Board was accustomed to moving, did not match.  A tension was beginning to build, something we were far too busy to fix at the moment.  What we needed was to push through the details of this event and get through it.  Get to September.  There was too much riding on this success, too many people invested, too much of Woodbury's reputation at stake to quit or stop or slow down.  There were a few members of the Board who showed up for meetings and put in some time, individually sponsored portions of the event and offered, what I considered to be, sincere support.  Communications with the City were mainly through Main Street at that point and all permissions we were seeking were granted through a series of meetings with the then administration and staff.  While there were questions, some hesitations and some concerns, in the end everyone seemed to be on the same page, or at least from my perspective at the time. 

September happened.  And it was wonderful.  We not only exceeded people's expectations, we exceeded our own.  It wasn't perfect but we made it through without any major problems. We had gone over the 10,000 mark for attendance.  We were flooded with letters of thanks and appreciation.  People of Woodbury were saying how proud they were to be from here for the first time in a long time.  That meant a lot.  The volunteers were invigorated and so geared up for round two but the leadership, the core group were drained.  At the peak of production in August and September, myself and my partner in crime were putting in well over 60 hours a week.  Remember, please, that this is volunteer work and not the just for fun because we want something to do volunteer work.  I had a three year old at home that I hadn't put to bed in months and my partner was saying no to clients and canceling vacations.  Our families took the hit more than anyone and if you've ever worked hard enough at anything than you know what I am talking about. 

Now what?  The planning had to start immediately but relations with Main Street were deteriorating quickly.  And let me stop right there.  The Main Street I am talking about was the Board previous to the current sitting Board.  I consider the efforts of the current Board and volunteers of that organization to be worthy of praise for what I hope is a reinvigoration and rebirth.  This is in no way a continuation of previous arguments.  Those perpetuating that this fight with Main Street still continues are misinformed.

The Main Street of 2012 was different.  We were already starting to plan but we needed some help, some changes to make it possible to continue.  We had not only thrown the FAF but were also responsible for at least helping out with the other committees of the organization and the expectations on us were growing.  We had tried to express how hard this had become over the last months but I don't think it was fully understood by the Board.  I'd like to think that if they really understood what was being asked of their volunteers, what they were asking of us, that things would have been different.We couldn't do it all but were willing to take on another year if we could have some help.  We needed some outside advisors to come in and help us make some major decisions about how the fest should grow.  Do we keep it one day or make it two days?  Do we make more smaller stages or get one big stage and performance?  Do we pay the performers or get better sound quality?  There are a thousand decisions that go into making something that large and having some reinforcements from the region who had experience would help.  Luckily for us, there were many highly qualified individuals from the region raising their hand.  We also needed some fine tuning of our communications, of how we could more easily operate at that fast of a pace, etc...we needed to know that the few thousand dollars left over at the end of each year could be used as seed for the following year rather than asking us to start over from scratch each time.  We also wanted a voice on the Board which would be deciding the fate of this event that we were pouring ourselves into year after year.   These requests were not well received.  

What started then was a downward slope of communication breakdown and a heated contention over what our rights as volunteers included.  We were not to speak to the City because we did not represent the organization.  We were not answered on most questions or communications for the largest and the smallest of things.  We were marginalized and left to make most decisions on our own due to the simple lack of response. 

But the ball was already rolling and the chance to back out was gone.  Personally, I feared legal retribution.  Retribution is probably not the right word here as it would imply wrong doing.  The only real argument you can make against a volunteer of an organization is that of negligence.  Could I be sued for walking away?  For canceling it?  It would mean non-refundable deposits that they couldn't pay for and no way to fulfill any promises without us.  I didn't know for sure and I trusted no one, no one except the core group of volunteers that faced the same questions and arguments and verbal attacks and pressure.  It was a pressure that ate away at all of us and there wasn't anywhere to really turn and no real way of knowing whose side anyone was on.  Rumors were being spread, accusations that were offensive and insulting and caused daily stress. 

There was a new administration in power, a new Mayor and a little light of hope.  He had been pretty vocal in his support of the FAF and I believe, actually saw the value, the big picture.  What I didn't know was that many around him did not share that sentiment and that he was going to bat for us behind closed doors.  We were viewed as demanding and a nuisance to some and I can understand why.  The job was a big one and it seemed to grow as the fest grew.  They were being fed falsities about us, about how we operate, about our intentions and we were never given a real chance to communicate at that time.  We had also decided to keep our struggles to ourselves so how would anyone know to come to our aid?  We were unable to trust most and just as anxious to keep negative headlines out of the papers as it would hurt our chances of garnering the kind of success that we needed for year two.  If the story became about the feud, the story would cease to be about the fest and in turn, about Woodbury and the merchants and the artists and so on.

Year two wasn't something we celebrated.  It was something we survived.  We were drowning and needed help especially through the summer of 2013.  Up until June, we had our finger on the cancel button but decided to go forward despite all of our instincts.  How we were treated, myself, my volunteers was appalling in those final months.  We weren't perfect in our execution of everything.  I can admit that.  I can think of a dozen things I would do differently just off the top of my head right now.  I can think of a handful of actions that were rash and split decisions.  We weren't beyond reproach.  I could see us melting down the closer we got to that weekend and I honestly couldn't have blamed anyone if they upped and walked away at any moment.  It is difficult to describe the amount of stress we were under at the time and I try not to think about it truthfully.  It took the joy away from the event. 

We made it through and we walked away.  After a long break, we decided to start a new organization, a non-profit which would fulfill the original intent.  The FAF Coalition was created by the volunteers who had created the fest and was a creative placemaking organization which set out to utilize the arts not just as a nice additive to an area but as an engine for economic revitalization.  Our first meeting had 50+ FAFFERS packed in with lists of ideas that stretched far and beyond one event on one weekend in September.  They wanted to take that same force that had created the fest and put it into beautifying the City, making year round events, developing arts and culture related businesses in town, etc....In order to do that, in order to even consider anything as large or as draining as we had previously ventured into, we would need to form a positive relationship with the City.  Unfortunately, that was off to a rough start. 

The Mayor was still our biggest fan and expressed his intention to support the new organization but others were not convinced and made no attempt to explore the hows, whats and whys of the last two years or the years to come.  What was made clear very quickly was that the rules that applied during the FAFs no longer applied, or at least not to us.  There was to be no alcohol on public property and we would be charged $50 per vendor for any event.  In the efforts of establishing a positive relationship with the City, we decided to comply with the request to keep alcohol on private property for our fundraisers.  We designed four fundraisers with a quick turnaround and little strain on our volunteers.  In retrospect, we should've established a better relationship with the City before trying any kind of event at all and these were too quickly put together.  We asked that a request to lower that price for vendors be put before Council.  We were denied that request.  We were offered the opportunity to partner with the City on the fireworks event but were left off of printed and/or digital ads promoting the event.  

Keeping these events on private property proved difficult.  The location of our first event pulled out.  Now I've heard the rumors too that we never had permission.  That is not true.  I was there.  I was in those meetings.  We were given permission by their then marketing coordinator and were waiting on signature of the contract.  As a matter of fact, the name and concept of the event were her idea and a great one at that because it was meant to promote their latest product line.  It was a good deal.  We weren't going to be making much, only $10 at the door plus any extra fundraising activities we concocted for the evening minus a share of the rental cost for supplies.   We wanted to bring 500 to 1000 new customers to the business. For whatever reason, the location decided not to salvage the event and keep it there.  I'd like to take a pause here and say that I have no ill feelings toward this business or any other and would like to assume that perhaps we were not clear enough in how we hoped this would benefit their business.  We found another location quickly but that wasn't easy either.  My partner and I were literally driving around town and looking at satellite pictures to find a private property, preferably an existing partner to get this done fast with adequate space, etc... We found a great solution but in order to comply with the contract of that company we would need to utilize an easement and adjoining properties.  We were told by the City that there were objections to this property due to a concern over the security of the perimeter where alcohol was to be consumed and that it was across the street from the school.  On a Saturday.  In July.  We were in full communication with the City up until then, asking for a meeting, asking for help in saving the event.  We were a little bit over a month out and needed some assistance.  We never heard back.  So we cancelled the event and the event that was to follow, eventually stopping all production.  We walked into City Council and have tried to avoid any and all conversations that happen outside of that room since then.  We asked for clarification on two issues: Alcohol on public property and the fees for having vendors at an event in the City.  The next six months played out a long conversation about these issues, specifically alcohol, until the ordinance was final containing 13 basic rules with the understanding that changes might have to be made to those rules in the future and that we should move forward with everyone having the intention to establish a trusting and a positive relationship from this point forward.

But we didn't trust anyone.  Still.  It would be a leap of faith to put months of work into something only to have it pulled out at the last minute for reasons we exhausted ourselves trying to identify and avoid.  At this point, the conversations became less about the organization and more about whether it was even worth trying to put anything in Woodbury.  We had other municipalities asking us to bring them the FAF but we wanted our work to be here or at least focused here.  "All roads lead to Woodbury" was the mantra.  We continued to plan with an ever shrinking list of possibilities that we thought might fly within the City limits and I had held on longer than I planned since the previous fall.  I resigned my position due to health reasons but in truth, I would've pushed myself further and to my detriment had we been in the middle of something promising and by promising I mean possible.  I think we had been waiting to see how the City would proceed and the results were questionable at first.  We had heard rumors that the first vendor event for another organization was not charged according to the new set of rules put in place regarding vendor fees.

Then June happened.  As I said in City Council, my first response to seeing the pictures of the event was to be pleased for the organization.  Good job.  The event looked pretty and well enough attended to continue the event in coming years.  Then I noticed there was no fence around the perimeter.  No security guard.  I started getting questions from people noticing the same thing.  Another FAFFER took a closer look and asked for some documentation.  In the end, 9 of the 13 regulations put forth in that ordinance were either done wrong or completely ignored.  I heard it loud and clear.


Message received.

So what's the answer?  It goes back to the beginning actually and the reason for writing down all of this mess in the first place, a task I hope never to repeat as it was as painfully long to write as I'm sure it was to read.  To reconcile these events in my gut, I have to come to one of two conclusions.  The first, is that there is genuine malice, that there was a calculated behind the scenes attempt to shut us down.  That's what the general consensus is amongst those who watched it go down.  While there is plenty of evidence for this once you look close enough,  details that I have even now intentionally chosen to leave out in the hopes that I will not be pushed to discuss anyone's shameful behavior, on any side of this argument, any further.  The second is that we were not valued and were easily tossed aside.  I would prefer to imagine the second option as I have faith in the goodness of people at their core and it helps me sleep at night.  Then again, this is Jersey.  I will probably never get a straight answer, only off the record confirmations of things I already know and choose to place in the back of my mind so as to continue a civil conversation.  

The second option means that mistakes were made and the biggest one of all is this and there is enough blame to go around, including me:

No matter who liked who, who disagreed with what actions, how much tension there was or bad blood or resentment or distrust, we all owed it to the people of the City of Woodbury to come together and say - that was worth protecting, no matter what.   

What happened amongst those citizens and volunteers was organic growth, something that communities everywhere try and fail to replicate all of the time. We had it.  If you know anything about City planning or community outreach then you know what I'm talking about.  Whether you liked the fest or not, whether you liked us or not, I don't particularly care.  I don't need more friends.  What matters is that for the first time in a long time, people were coming back into this city for reasons other than jury duty and meetings with their lawyers.  Our formula had worked.  It could've been explored and applied to many efforts, other organizations, other pursuits.  You didn't need to applaud it.  You needed to recognize that this mattered just as much if not more than your other efforts to bring this City back to life.  We would've gladly shared the spotlight with you.   I believe that we were at fault and needed to share this story earlier in the hopes of finding a champion in the leadership of Woodbury.  Not lip service.  Actual support - support that creates a wall around something, not in front of it.  

If are reading this and feel the instinct to fortify your walls or go online and anonymously post something which continues to waste more time than you are missing the point.  If you have any respect for me or the volunteers standing behind me you will rise to the occasion, be the example you want to see, be the leaders that this City so desperately needs.  If you have concerns, let's talk about them.  If you have complaints, voice them.  If you have questions, I'll answer them.  We can do better.  All of us.  This is not about alcohol.  This is not about feuding groups.  This is about a missed opportunity.  

At this point, I'm ending a long and exhausting conversation for a much needed break both from typing this thing out and from the stress of this experience.  As things stand today and as I said in Council, I would not recommend that any of my fellow volunteers venture into risking their time or efforts until someone stands up and is ready to pave a new road.  I look forward to watching the progress.

Thursday, January 29, 2015


Working on a mural design based on anti-bullying.  Hope to share more soon as color is added and I work through more details.  Thanks for checking in.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013


Again, I apologize for my absence on the blog but a post in the near future will explain in detail what the last two years have entailed for me, my work and of course my family.  For now, I can tell you that I am the Creative Director for The FAF, which of course begs the question - what is The FAF?  We are an all volunteer committee currently squeezing every last ounce of ourselves into making the largest, most successful arts festival that we can muster.  What was a handful of volunteers last year has turned into dozens - artists, residents, professionals, merchants.  We believe that art can bring people together, that if a community does not embrace culture and heritage and the arts that it will be lost.  The FAF, because of these efforts, has exceeded perhaps even our own expectations.  This September 28t and 29th, my little city of Woodbury, NJ will host an crowd expected to be over 25,000 with nearly 250 artists vending, exhibiting, working live, battling and sharing their work with the public.  My work will be for sale including originals and prints.  Stop by, take a look, breathe in some creative goodness and support the arts.  If it's not one of my pieces, than buy from one of these other artists.  Invest in art, in handmade, in craftsmanship and get all of your holiday shopping done in one day.  Thanks for your support and I will be in touch.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Thank You Woodbury Public Library

A special thank you to the Woodbury Public Library
for the placement of my donation of this Walt Whitman
rendering based on the famous photograph of the poet.

To see this print in person and check out one of the coolest libraries around, visit the Woodbury Public Library.  Programs include chess club and Friday night coffee house.  I'm not kidding.

Sunday, May 12, 2013


On April 1, 2013, my mother celebrated her 10 year anniversary being free from cancer.  She celebrated by telling no one.  This was partly because the date coincidentally falls on my daughter’s birthday and she would have no attention taken from her dear Scarlette.  Beyond this, beyond what my mother would consider a happy and meaningful coincidence in the date, rests a sense of privacy, of selflessness and a center which has never asked for the attention she deserves.
As with the other pieces I've drawn to honor other causes, I went searching for a meaning in a species of plant which would honor my mother.  For a friend celebrating his 10th year free from Leukemia, it was the peony, named for the Greek God of medicine and healing.  For a marine suffering from Lung Cancer, it was the gladiola which signified the warrior, the battle, the fight.  For my mother, I have chosen perseverance.

Lymphoma was one of many diseases, all lined up through the years taking turns, taking swings at her and too numerous to name.  Besides, she hates hearing the list.  The struggles continue and add up still today sending her through surgeries and new manifestations.  Most of the symptoms she keeps hidden and willfully managed despite near constant pain and discomfort.  Despite this, my mother has spent little time on self-pity.  She had me to raise and others to care for and money to make and she did it all well, exceptionally well.  She didn't have time to recover from a childhood full of horrors I dare not share because it isn't my story to tell.  The earlier the heartache, the higher and the thicker the wall you build around yourself and my mother has built herself a fortress.  She is a tell-it-as-she-sees-it character with no fear of judgment and an art of defense which keeps most at a distance.  Some would say she's a pain in the ass, stubborn and difficult and I think I'd agree at times.  But I was allowed the closest; close enough to see her at her most gentle, among the birds she sings to in the garden and the plants she apologizes to for pruning.  She was at her best with me at her side and motherhood, in spite of all the odds, suited her well because she had something to give and had held on to it for me.  I was her pride and joy and had the privilege of having her give to me what she never received, of having her create a world for me that was safe and fun and full of possibility.  My strength, my integrity, my courage all come from her and when I am at my lowest, my most beaten, I feel her build inside of me and I can do anything.  

She is perseverance and so I have selected the ancient symbols of plum, bamboo and pine which are known as The Three Friends of Winter.  They have been depicted together for centuries as a symbol of resilience.  They last the harshest of winters and the plum, especially, blooms early sometimes in the midst of snow as an act of defiance against that which would kill it.  The sketch is simple and elegant, not boasting or calling for attention.  I will be donating 100% of all profits for prints sold to a charity soon to be named.  I am giving the original to my mother so that she might know how I see her, that her struggles have been worth it because I am stronger for it and Scarlette carries with her the same fire.

I'll stop there as I'm sure she'd tell me to shut up and stop blubbering on about it.  Thanks for reading and to you Mom - Happy Mothers Day, Happy 10th Anniversary and Thank You, for everything.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013


Spring.  Finding myself determined to submit something to the most treasured of additions to our community, The Priya Art Gallery, I found myself perplexed by the theme of the show.  It was a natural theme given the time of year but for me, my instincts were quick and odd.  I did not see flowers or buzzing bees nor birds or beauty. Pregnancy.  Birth.  Pain.  Joy.  Confusion.  

I had my baby in the spring and so the first weeks of warm weather were reflective, anticipatory.  The month of March sends me back there.  As I think I may have written, pregnancy was not at all what I had imagined.  It was better and humbling but nothing of what I expected.  I suppose I thought I would feel as if I were making her in some way, creating.  Instead, it was as if my body, so equipped for this one purpose had been basically rolling its eyes at me every month, waiting to be set in motion.  And once that machine was set in motion, I was asked to sit back and shut up and stay out of the way as my body rolled up its sleeves, so very gracefully and all knowing.  Feeling more like a vehicle than a driver, I passed the months taking in proper fuel for the machine and waiting for her, a predetermined soul quite complete in herself waiting to be unearthed.  She belongs first to fate and the earth before she was mine.  

Expecting is on currently on display and for sale at The Priya Art Gallery.  Give them a like and stop in for a visit.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Twenty Years

There is a heavy fog outside with a drizzle and a chill.  Fog tends to put me in a magical and mysterious mood, like the setting of a classic Agatha Christie novel or the dream state that happens only moments before you open your eyes in the morning.  Mark and Scarlette have trotted off into the weather, umbrella in hand, for a much overdue date between daddy and daughter.  I sit perched at a freshly cleaned desk, music in the air and a ridiculously long list of work from a week of sickness and circumstance that has left me very far behind.

Where do I start?  This morning, I attempt to complete the editing of the first ten pages of what I hope to be my first published work.  While my other writings are in various stages of completion, this piece is near done and therefore gets the honorary position of being first in line.  This book will be, if all goes well, the publishing of the journal I kept while I was pregnant with Scarlette.  I thought I might share with you one of my entries from the journal that pertains to my husband Mark.  April 3, 2012 will be the twentieth anniversary of our first date and I thought it a perfect time to start reminiscing.  As for the sketch, this is another found piece from our years in Boston.  I must have drawn him dozens of times but there's only a few that seem to have stayed with me.  Here's the entry and the sketch.  Thanks for reading.

October 17, 2008 – 17 weeks

Where was I?  Oh yes, the greater purpose here.  Before we jump into lofty purposes and the mysteries of the universe, I suppose we should get you up to speed and tell you a bit about the last few months.  Actually, you should know about the last few years to get a good idea of how you came about.  Truth be told, the story begins before all of that, long before.

Monday, January 30, 2012

O Captain! My Captain!

I lost a mentor, an old friend in December and I haven't been able to write since.  I apologize for the silence on the blog but this blank screen has been staring me down for weeks and no matter what I type, I end up erasing all of it because I haven't found the words.  I will try, desperately, not to erase all of this in the hopes that I might share this with you because he was remarkable and worth the sharing.

Captain Kenneth Drake died unexpectedly on December 21, 2011.  Mr. Drake was my high school sculpture teacher.  He was more than that.  He was the first person to call me an artist, a word it has taken me the better part of twenty years to call myself.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Decisions Decisions

Arched Woman 2 Original
Rocket-propelled turtles or serious statements on womanhood?  I find that there are two very different people in my head who tend not to agree on much.  This isn't new.  This is an old story of mine.  Actually, I'm thankful there's only two duking it out up there at the moment.  This morning, I find myself in a very quiet house with a very quiet cup of coffee with no apparent opinion on the matter.  Dudley is also tightlipped on the issue and so I'm on my own.

At the moment, I have quite a few balls in the air but two very specific projects that are staring me in the face in the realm of pencils and paper.  On the one hand, I have a series of fantastical creatures on the verge of completion that will make a fine cast of characters in a possible children's book.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

The Gladiola

Sometimes, if you're lucky, life will turn around and give you a nice big kick in the teeth.  In the last few weeks, there haven't been solid kicks for me but more like little flicks on the center of the forehead, just enough to make me take notice.  There have a been a few dozen little flicks to the head for me lately, all of which stopped me in my tracks but only a few that have stayed with me - bizarre little circumstances and moments and news all unrelated but strung together resulting in a clearer sense of priority.

Amongst the bizarre little circumstances was some unexpected pain, a few exams and procedures which ended in all happy test results.  I'm perfectly fine but there was enough in the realm of possibilities to take my breath away.  I've been holding Scarlette a bit tighter this week.  Thrown in the middle was a 40th birthday party for my brother-in-law during which he and his thirteen year old daughter were both playing their guitars for a bit.  They sat together, side by side but it was hard to tell which one of them was following the other.  They were playing Iris by the Goo Goo Dolls, the one with that great repeating line "I just want you to know who I am" and for a moment, time stopped.  I will have that image of them in my mind forever.  She grew up so fast but was still here, half holding onto childhood and the other half ready for new chapters.  He looked half ready for the things to come and half wanting to rewind a few years and keep her here, his baby girl.   I held Scarlette a little tighter that night too.

And then there was the news of Jennifer Chancy.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Let In Some Light

Last Friday evening, I was pleased to show some of my work in a local First Friday festivity.  One of the most popular pieces which was quickly purchased by one of my most faithful patrons was a work in charcoal.  I had created the piece with a technique I've loved since college which involves taping off the paper or canvas, filling the entire area with as much charcoal as you can manage and then working with a trusty kneaded eraser to pull away the charcoal and reveal an image.  In the end, you have an image created by an eager eraser finding the light.  There is something about this process that feels like sculpting to me, like the carving away of stone to find a figure inside.  How beautifully metaphoric as well, to pull away the dark to reveal light.  I'm a sucker for inspiring metaphor and so this process is one of the most enjoyable techniques for me.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Number 5

Sketching over evening cabernet tonight and I thought this one was worth a post.  There have been so many wonderful compliments and thoughts shared not only on the blog but through the shop and over email.  You have all been so very kind and generous.  To an artist trying to find her voice again, your words of encouragement have been very dear to me over the last few months and I thank you.  Of all the pieces I've shared, there has been no greater response than to the crouching woman I posted last week.  She has brought more questions than anything, questions to which I'm afraid I may not have all of the answers as this is a series that has developed over many years and still seems to surprise me every time I put it to paper.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Garden Visitor

I'm up bright and early this morning with a quiet house and no sign of the sun yet.  Everyone is still asleep including my usual morning companions Dudley and Lola.  The coffee is extra strong but I've cut back on the sugar and truth be told, it was that magical third scoop that I loved the most.

I am thankful for the quiet.  This house and my schedule have both been buzzing with activity lately and the peacefulness of 5:30am is a welcome change. Autumn is one of my favorite times of year despite there being a mad rush around this house to prepare for winter.  All of the projects that were too exhausting to do in the heat of the summer are all crammed into the fall before the ground freezes and the weather gets too bitter to bare.  Amongst the list of ridiculously unrealistic goals for the season is the reshaping of the backyard, installation of a new fence and the removal of english ivy that has probably been here before the house was built in 1898 or at least it feels that way when you're trying to rip it out from the roots.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Unfinished Series of Seven

Finally, I'm back to drawing this morning.  Huge cup of coffee, three sugars and the house is silent.  I suppose my mind and my hands are taking a break from rocket propelled turtles because it seems that I have my unfinished series of seven on the brain.  As mentioned previously with the posting of a self portrait I had completed years and years ago, there were supposed to be eight pieces but only the colorful hair ever saw the light of day.  The other seven have only ever turned into sketches and figures in notebook margins.  I suppose that's because the other seven are more honest where the self portrait was an idea of balance that didn't actually exist for me at the time.  While we're on the subject of honesty, it doesn't really exist for me now either.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Litte Red Bird Continued

So, where did I leave off?  Oh yes.  The "little bird" part of the Little Red Bird category in the shop dedicated to all creations with Scarlette in mind.  When I was pregnant with Scarlette and looking into different classes and approaches to natural childbirth, hypnobirthing came very highly recommended and so Mark and I took the class.  Before you roll your eyes, it's not hypnosis but more of a relaxation technique for pain management.  My labor ended up being barely manageable and there was no relaxation to be had but that's a story for another day.  I would still highly recommend the class and natural childbirth all the same.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Little Red Bird

If you hadn't already guessed, Scarlette is the Little Red Bird but I'm certain that you don't know the reason as only a few people in the world know the whole story.  As I had mentioned in my previous post, one of the categories that I have created in my online shop is titled Little Red Bird and it is dedicated all creations that come about with Scarlette in mind.  What I did not mention is how the name came about and so I have found the most ridiculously oversized cup in the cabinet.  I have coffee in hand and a few very specific songs from one very specific playlist repeating in my ear.

Red.  This is the first element of the name that came about and it is derived from her name.  Not unlike anything else that we do, the selecting of the name of our first child was going to be a long process.  If you've ever been with us shopping for anything, picking out the perfect Christmas tree, tile or paint or whatnot then you are well aware of how painful the process can be, that is if you survived and are not now heavily medicated and can't remember.  We skimmed through dozens of books,  scoured through old movies and novels and songs.  There was a book of 1001 baby names which we went through front to back three times.  Three times.  Three!  I'm not kidding.  We were able to narrow it down to a few dozen which we wrote in very lovely handwriting on large sheets of paper and placed them one by one on the mantel so that we could get a really good look.  Painful.  Then we took one name per day and said the name out loud to reference the baby or to talk to my growing pregnant belly.  That eliminated quite a few.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Sand In My Toes

I'm back in town after a few days of rest and relaxation.  The sun and sand have left me still in vacation mode today with loads of laundry and a very confused two year old.  Scarlette is pretty sure that if she's a good girl she should get to go to the beach today.  "Good girls go beach?  Good girls go rides?," she says in the sweetest little voice you can imagine.   She has a point.  It's a good point to which I have a longwinded explanation about Daddy's limited vacation days and the cost of tickets and beach tags which she nods at very patiently, pauses and then repeats her question.  I've been having the same conversation all day to no avail but there's still some yummy Shriver's fudge left over which she seems satisfied with at the moment.  As for the shore, it was perfect in spite of the rain.  Scarlette discovered baby clams that dig into the sand before each wave.  She discovered salt water taffy, cotton candy and the thrill and combined terror of the ferris wheel.  Somewhere in the middle of rides and surreys and junky boardwalk goodies, Mark and I had about two hours to sit on a bench in the light rain holding Scarlette while she slept.  It was perfect.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Hello September

After a month of daily sketches, I have to say I'm a bit relaxed this morning with a fabulously strong cup of coffee, three sugars for extra happiness and no actual timeline for anything.  That being said, I'm ready for another post!  

At the urging of my husband Mark, I've been dusting off some of my old works from ages and ages ago, in a galaxy far far away, once upon a time.  You get the idea.  Amongst dozens of art class exercises in proportion and scale and color and line, there are a few pieces that might be worth the dusting off.  While I've promised Mark that I wouldn't sell the original, I've decided to list a print of one of the first paintings I completed after college.

Completed.  That's an interesting word.  I'm not sure that I ever feel truly done with anything which makes me perpetually unsatisfied with the things I create.  That kind of perspective can be of great use in the idea that there is always more to be done, more to learn and more to achieve.  It is an ideal I hope I never lose.  However, there is an evil in it.  This very idea is what makes me not finish things.  I start something, find a frustration or a road block of some kind return to it only to find that the same idea is no longer in my hands and it's gone.  I put it away unfinished.  It's that seed of doubt that rots some of my work.  This piece would probably go in that category but I'm starting to think more organically in recent years.  Something becomes whatever it was meant to be, with signs of circumstance or conscious or unconscious influence and there it is.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Eye Digress

Between the dogs antics, my two year old, a house of horrors, a husband with an unpredictable work schedule and, let's see, an earthquake and a hurricane, I was certain I wouldn't make it to sketch 31.  But here we are, the final sketch of the August 2011 series.  Does that countdown actually say 0 sketches?  Unbelievable.  I feel incredibly renewed this morning and a bit exhausted to be honest.  What a lovely sense of accomplishment though, all be it a small accomplishment but a finish line all the same. 

So, what's next?  Well, if you've been reading along you know that I've decided to continue the blog into September.  I can't promise to get up at the crack of dawn everyday to draw although I will miss the discipline of it.  What I hope to do is continue in the purpose of the blog which was to find myself in the creation of something, anything.  I feel on my way to it.  This little experiment of mine has been good for my soul and the overwhelmingly positive and supportive response has humbled me and raised my chin a bit at the same time.  I thank you for that.  Now, I will dig into works and ideas I've neglected or stored away, hidden maybe is the right word.  This wont' be a daily ritual of a blog but I hope to try and sit with some blank paper and my computer and my thoughts every morning over a very strong cup of coffee.  I hope that you keep reading.  There's more to tell.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Feathered Friends

With only one sketch left and this little experiment coming to an end, my head is spinning with projects I have to finish and new projects I want to begin.  In the very long list of projects to be finished is Scarlette's playroom mural which is in need of a dozen or so more birds.  Not that she'd notice.  Scarlette seems thrilled about the purple owl that sits over the door and watches her play but if I don't get it done this autumn, it will never get done.  She'll soon be old enough to pick out something new for Mommy to paint on her walls and that will be the end of the unfinished feathered friends.

The list of unfinished projects is too long and almost too ridiculous to post here.  The list ranges from manual labor to life goals - paint powder room, teach Scarlette the alphabet, fix kitchen faucet, get book published.  It's ridiculous to have one list but I never know what I'm going to feel up to on any given day.  This afternoon, I'll be working on a custom drawing for a client while having a picnic in the side yard and then it's on to errands.  With feathers on the brain, I think I will try to get a few more birds on the wall during the nap today.  Hopefully, the day will cooperate.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Acorns of Autumn

Despite some protest from Dudley who is still a bit jittery from the storm this weekend, I'm back outside and roaming around the yard for a subject to sketch.  There's very little damage in the yard besides my lovely hydrangea and a few branches.  There is some evidence of Irene that has been left behind.  Covering the ground are scattered leaves and thousands of acorns displaced from their homes a bit early this year.  They make for uneasy walking but a lovely subject matter to put to paper.  The squirrels I'm sure will be quite busy today frantically gathering from the acorn buffet all of the yard and Scarlette I'm sure will be equally excited.  She loves to collect things like rocks, leaves, flowers and gather them together.  She puts them in piles.  She lines them up and tries to count them.  They go in the bucket, they get a bath with the hose, they are given as gifts to whomever is around and then promptly confiscated to go back into piles and lines and buckets.  She's at that stage of wonder that is intoxicating to watch.  Everything is new.  Everything is amazing.

Sunday, August 28, 2011


Waterlogged and tired but the house is still standing and everyone here is fine.  Besides some bucketing of water out of the basement and a very scary tornado warning, we fared very well.  No loss of power.  No broken windows.  No trees down and the lake is really not that high over the banks.

Scarlette had a blast.  With all of the excitement of checking for updates and Daddy in and out of the basement and candles and flashlights and rain and wind, there was no hope of getting that child to bed.  Absolutely fascinated by her own little flashlight which she thought could tickle you by moving the light over your belly, my darling girl was up and running and crazy until midnight.  She ate popcorn and mango and pretzels and whatever she could get the very distracted adults to give her.  The candles made for a great deal of entertainment.  Scarlette would sing her version of Happy Birthday and then blow all of the candles out.  Her version, by the way, adds cake into the song.  "Happy Birthday cake to you."  What can I say?  She loves cake.  You'd think she would've slept in after all of that but no.  She's up and ready for another hurricane.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Baby Toes

Last night over some very delicious bruschetta and very strong mojitos, I got to catch up with some girlfriends of mine and fit in a much needed girls' night before the storm.  There was one person in particular that I was anxious to see which was Kristi whom I haven't seen in months.  She is very pregnant and starting to feel the pangs of things to come.  With three weeks to go, I think she's feeling the glow of pregnancy dimming a bit but she looks lovely and beautiful and ready.  The conversation was swirling with talk of braxton hicks and breastfeeding and I think seeing a pregnant woman is like going to a wedding - you can't help but think of your own.

Friday, August 26, 2011

The Newel Post

My intention was to sketch the view of the lake this morning but the fog is heavy and so I'm back inside.  Roaming around the house looking for inspiration and I've landed on the floor of my foyer with my huge cup of coffee and a good view of the staircase.  Before I blabber on about the staircase, let me just say that drawing architecture is not for the faint of heart, even old worn out architecture.  The lines and proportions are unforgiving and thirty minutes is barely enough time to get the basics.  Then again, the dogs licking my face and sipping my coffee aren't helping much.

When we were first looking for a house, the condition and price of this one was all wrong but there was something about it that made me make an appointment to see it.  I had done my homework and prepared some very serious and technical questions for the real estate agent about the condition of the electric and the age of the boiler and so on.  I was doing great all the way up the hill, onto the porch overlooking the lake, up to the double doors and I was still all business.  Then we got into the foyer and I saw the stairs.  Keep in mind, the foyer was covered in the nastiest linoleum you've ever seen and the stairs were covered in a disgusting blue rug that may have had a  strain of the bubonic plague in it from the nineteenth century considering the age and smell - yes I said smell.  But the newel post was calling to me.  The house was dark and a bit scary but the staircase was lit by the stained glass window on the landing and I lost it.  All my grown up questions melted into a weepy, squealing girly giggle.  It was pitiful.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Good Morning Charles River

No, there are no crew boats on the lake this morning although we have seen them rowing by now and then.  This morning, I'm thinking of Boston.   More than likely, that's because I've recently reconnected with some of my roommates from BU and it has me nostalgic and dreamy.  Amy, Sandy, Kristen and Kathi were my roommates in freshman year and we lived in a corner suite in a residence called Shelton Hall.

This may sound odd but the dorms at BU were quite nice.  Perhaps I was just young and away in the city but each one had a charm to it.  Miles Standish was an old hotel with the best dining hall and my room sat on the first floor overlooking a vacant side street that was screaming to be on the cover of a Beatles album.  Warren Towers was a zoo and that's actually what they called it, the zoo.  But there was an amazing few of the city and Commonwealth Avenue if you had the right room.  

Shelton Hall might have been my favorite.  That could have been due to the great roommates and the giant rice krispie treats in the dining hall.  But I think the top floor of the building had a great deal to do with it.  Shelton Hall was also an old hotel converted to house students.  That made the architecture and ambience quite a bit more enchanting than other cinderblock dorms.  The top floor was a huge open space  dedicated to study with tables and chairs throughout, surrounded by windows which overlooked the Charles River on one side and Kenmore Square on the other.  Most of the time, there was quiet for study but the dance floor sometimes found a few students practicing for their ballroom dance elective and the television often found the Red Sox on game night. 

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

August Lily

"I think it pisses God off when you walk by the color purple in a field and don't notice it."  That's probably one of my favorite quotes from Alice Walker's The Color Purple and more than likely why I subconsciously pick out purple flowers wherever I go.  When it came time for picking out flowers for the property, purples seem to pop up everywhere, amongst some reds and bright pinks but mostly purples and violets.  But before we could plant anything, we had to rip out years worth of neglect.  For anyone who has seen the property now, it's hard to imagine that you couldn't see the hill or the lake or the property line.  Each time, we cut something down, there was something lovely underneath just waiting for some sun.  What we found were hidden gardens.  There were clumps of roses and tulips and lilies that at some point in the 130 years of this house, were someone's garden.  Reading that back to myself, I think I've written it as if it was some enchanted soft lighted moment of epiphany as if it looked like some sculptured English spread as soon as we chopped away some ivy.  I think I left out the blood, sweat, tears and hospital visits.  This has been a long process and a battle at times.  Ivy is not a friend to stone walls although it reminds me of Boston and I hate ripping it out.  We have also found it quite hard to form your own garden design over years worth of other designs.  This brings me to today's subject - the Hosta.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Fading Summer

The first of cool autumn air is pouring in the windows this morning and so I should've known.  When I asked Mark last night for his vote on what I should draw for this sketch, the answer was grapes of course with no hesitation.   

Every year, just about this time when summer starts to fade, he gets this inspired and rather restless look in his eye.  A few years back, I was in California for work and we decided to make a trip out of it.  We started in San Diego, stopped in Los Angeles for a few days of work then started north on route 1 all the way up to Napa.  If you've never been, the drive up route 1 should be on your bucket list.  There's something about it that feels like the end of the earth, almost undiscovered.  Napa was our final destination and we fell in love, with each other again and the valley a well.  And so, every year when harvest time comes, Mark gets a glow about the idea of escaping west and starting a winery in Napa or Sonoma or best of all, Oakville to make Cabernet Sauvignon.  Perhaps we will but for now, we'll keep migrating there when we can, when summer starts to fade and next time with Scarlette.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Flights of Whimsy

This morning marks the ten day countdown to this little experiment and I have to be honest, I didn't think I'd make it this far.  I have a life full of unfinished projects and so this had great potential for ending up in that heaping pile.  Instead, it's turned into more than I had intended.  There are now nine sketches that remain and as September 1st approaches, I find myself wondering what comes next.  This month has lit a fire under my rump and got me drawing and writing again which is where I'm always happiest.  September shouldn't close a chapter but open a new one and so I've decided to continue the blog.  I don't think I'll be stressing to get a sketch done at 5 in the morning for the rest of my life but I refuse to stop creating things.  This has been good for me.   What exactly September has in store for me I'm not certain but I'm anxious to find out.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Stone and Sky

Speaking of old stuff, have a I mentioned the house?  Not my house, not our house, THE house.  We own it, well the bank owns it, but when something in your life becomes as monumentally engrossing as this 130 year old home has become, it gets a "the" in front of it.  The house has become more like a character in the epic drama/comedy/romance/tragedy/triumph/horror film that is our lives.  To say that the house was run down would be very generous.  It was practically abandoned with a pentagram on the living room floor, a coffin in the basement (they used it as a haunted house at Halloween), squirrels living in the porch and a layer of dust and dirt and cobwebs to make any potential buyer run away screaming - except for us of course.  

I don't know why but the house spoke to me, sang to me is more like it.  The foundation was good, the stone walls were still standing and all I could see was Scarlette.  She didn't exist yet.  She was hardly an actual intention at that point but I knew she would come eventually and I could see her here, throwing rocks in the lake, rolling down the hill, reading on the porch.  Underneath the grime and overgrown jungle of a yard, there was a home and a history and something worth saving.  And I was right, at least about some it.  With every vine and overgrown mess we took out, underneath was a rose bush waiting for some light.  Underneath every plague ridden carpet and linoleum floor were original woods.