Sunday, January 13, 2019

My Most Valuable Paintings

A few months ago I was looking for a photo on my computer and I came across a series of snapshots that I had taken of my two kids about 5 years ago.  The room they are sitting in was towards the front of our little house, bathed in morning light that was creating a striped pattern on the wall.

Both kids were engrossed in their personal activities.  Ari was writing in her notebook, a habit that continues to require a NEW NOTEBOOK EVERY TIME WE GO TO THE DOLLAR STORE.  I keep thinking that there is NO WAY the child could use another notebook, but occasionally I attempt to find the floor of her room, and as I organize her numerous notes, I see that she, indeed, uses every single one...dozens of to-do lists and planning and yarn types and shopping lists and weekend activity plans.  It's not exactly snooping...but it does give me a delightful peek into her motivated 11 year old mind!

(detail of the new painting...forgive the wet paint glare!)

Jack was at his usual spot, the head of the table, Master of The Coffee Table Domain.  Various creatures of all shapes, colors, sizes (and expressions!) were at his every command.  Sound effects poured effortlessly from his cheeks, and warriors changed outfits and weapons and tactics moment by moment.

To me...pure heaven.  Not an electronic in sight.  Colors everywhere.  Chaotic bliss.  Relaxed...everyone getting to Be Themselves.

I started the painting, my heart beating with excitement over the patterns and colors that I couldn't wait to translate into paint on canvas!  I also thoroughly enjoy painting my children, as I have many many times before.  Not having them 24/7 is tough.  So.. sitting in my studio, painting their faces, I constantly send them love and good thoughts.  In that way I am always with them.

As I mentioned in a previous post, I really enjoyed Alain de Botton's lecture "Art as Therapy".  Listening to it as I painted this most recent portrait of my children, it really impressed upon me WHY I was so motivated to paint this picture at this time.

Alain de Botton stated (forgive my paraphrasing)

 "If we had a better memory, we wouldn't need art.  We forget stuff.  Particularly, valuable stuff.  A work of Art becomes valuable the more that it captures something significant.  The more fragile the moment is, the more valuable the art is because it's touching on something that otherwise we can't put a finger on"

I LOVED HEARING THIS as I was painting this particular moment!!! It is difficult to put into words the warmth, pride, joy, love, delight that was flowing through me 5 years ago.  And unfortunately the last two years have just been a constant war on me as a mother, so much so that there were times that I questioned if I had done ANYTHING right!  But this moment reminded me that I did A LOT right.  I am a good mom.  I look back at all their pictures now, not with a sense of sadness or  regret, but SO much pride and joy!  I nurtured their individuality, their reading skills, their creativity, their sense of adventure, their HUMOR...I really could not be prouder of my two awesome kids.

THIS is why Art can be so important!  Time heals a lot of things, but can also distance you from some of the good stuff from long ago as well.  Difficult times, hard feelings, can cloud our perspectives... and memories - especially good ones - can get lost in the shuffle.

So, according to de Botton, what DOES Art do for us?

There are three key things...

1.  Art compensates for the fact that we have really bad memories.  (99% of my commission work has been created to commemorate good times and good vital to immortalize!)

(Portrait of Ari about aged 5, holding a baby bird)

2.  Art Gives Us Hope.  (For me, this means that you honor good moments to inspire even more! I don't paint something beautiful thinking it's going to be the LAST good moment...I paint out of the delight for every beautiful moment that's going to inspire me next!  What's more hopeful than appreciating beauty all around?)

(Jack, aged 11, at a festival in Downtown Atlanta)

3.  Art re-balances us.  Art connects us with the missing bit of us.  Art opens our eyes to the neglected value of the every-day.  (oh my goodness those three points hit me hard!!! Painting re-balances me in ways that I'll need 11 blog posts to explain.  It's my therapy!  This particular painting really reminded me of GOOD times I spent with my kids.  It balanced my perspective at a time I needed it most.  And this painting was connecting me with my son..we have very little time together, and just sending the good vibes and love to him during the process has helped me fill the hole in my heart.  And this precious moment was VALUED by me so much!  I've never been a really big "pose perfectly with your hair brushed and clothes perfect" kind of mom.  I thrive on capturing my kids as They Are...and this every-day moment has more value than any perfectly crafted pose)

(Ari reading, around age 2)

It has always been my greatest pleasure to paint portraits and commissioned work that captures so much of the points above.   I am so appreciative of Alain de Botton's lecture which helped me put those feelings into words!

Monday, January 7, 2019

Art as Therapy...Alain de Botton

“Growth occurs when we discover how to remain authentically ourselves in the presence of potentially threatening things. Maturity is the possession of coping skills: we can take in our stride things that previously would have knocked us off course. We are less fragile, less easily shocked and hence more capable of engaging with situations as they really are” 

Alain de Botton, "Art as Therapy"

We were heading into court, again.  I was exhausted, emotionally and physically.  I just wanted to move forward...from the manipulation, lies, cruelty, and the campaign to destroy who I was.

I was trying to stay positive.  I was at a Zumba class with some of my absolute favorite women on the planet.   At the end of class, several of them gathered around me to get an update on the situation.  Many of them had been through similar scenarios - the misuse of the justice system, using children as pawns, the aligning with family members to drive you out, the lying lying lying that seems never-ending.

I broke down, in tears.

"I'm afraid, the only way that I will be able to win in court, is if I them"

I would have to become vengeful.  Spiteful.  Jealous.  Stonewall progress or therapy.  Lie to authorities. Dig in my heals and brush them aside like unwanted trash...because that's what they were doing to me, and I felt that "just keeping my head high" was not going to work.

These beautiful women gathered around, shared their stories of triumph over tragedy, and then said "we need to pray"

Hands clasped and heads bowed, in that circle my dear friends prayed that I could maintain my integrity, spirit, heart, and soul as I faced this trial.  No lies could maintain their power, only the truth and my love for my children would be victorious.

Whatever your spiritual beliefs may be...the circle of souls that came together and BELIEVED that I was capable of maintaining WHO I WAS gave me such comfort and helped me remain calm, and be court.

The situation is a constant battle for reasonable compromise, integrity, and honesty.  Just being treated like a human being is something I can barely hope for.  But...I have grown.  I have matured.  Sometimes only harsh situations can strengthen our minds and bodies.  And, because I am now less fragile, the bald face lies and being dismissed as if I was a bug on the windshield don't nearly effect me as they used to.  In fact, the lies cause me to burst into laughter!

I ran into an old neighbor the other day, and she was telling me that for a few months she had to navigate the horrific Atlanta traffic to get to her job every day.  After a while, her daughter looked at her and said "Mom! What is WRONG with you?  Why are you miserable?" 

My neighbor realized that the daily stress of dealing with traffic, the anxiety of facing the horrible commute every day, was making her miserable.  She quit her job, and was gleefully back to her true self.

Facing horrible people, and the anxiety of facing them again and again, can make you miserable.  Get to know who you really are.  And, if you have to deal with horrific traffic or difficult personalities or financial troubles or whatever it may be...remain true to who you are.  IF the it a marriage, a family dynamic, a job, etc...forces you to become something you are not, then it's time to move on.

Hopefully, you will have the time that I have had, to study, meditate, and focus on what REALLY matters, so that the crap that doesn't matter can no longer effect you.  You will begin to see lies as exposing a deeper truth: the weaknesses and lack of self-confidence or  inability to change and grow in the liar is what causes them to's all they have left.  Truly happy, confident, fulfilled people have no reason to destroy others.  

Be who you are.  Be creative or caring or adventurous.  Be loving.  Be patient.  BE CURIOUS.   Explore the magic of your mind.

Eventually, you can drive in traffic and see it as the perfect speed, the perfect situation.  Eventually, you can begin to spend time with family again, because you see their personalities as who THEY are, not a reflection of who you are.  You can engage with situations as they really are, with deeper understanding and strength.

Spend a few minutes every day reminding yourself WHO YOU REALLY ARE.  Listen only to the TRUTH within you.   Remain authentically yourself, even in the face of potentially harmful situations.  See the situation for what it really is.  Then be yourself. No one can take that away from you.

Monday, December 31, 2018

YouTube Play List from my Studio for a Successful 2019

Last night, while enjoying the best home made lemon pepper wings courtesy of my BF and a four hour chat-fest marathon with two of my dearest friends, I periodically said "I have to send you the link to this video!" as we discussed our lives and plans for 2019.  So I thought I'd put all the links in one place and share them with you all as well!

YouTube is my constant companion in the studio.  It wasn't always this way.  In college and grad school, it was the radio or CD's.  Eventually my iPod on a speaker, then of course Pandora.  Music transitioned to comedians for a long while, then almost two years ago I started to explore lectures - Ted talks mostly - dealing with some of the personal issues I was trying to comprehend.

As I learned more, understood more, about the psychology and pathology behind the personalities that threw my personal life into a tailspin, every talk, every explanation, every answer eventually led me back to an ultimate truth: I am in control.  My thoughts, my reactions, my life.

One of my favorite lectures, and he has another one I will share in a later post, is about Love.  Well, the familiar kind of love we seek.  And, more importantly, cultivating and nurturing a better kind of love.  I find this talk especially important as a mother, because I would like to live an example of powerful, nurturing, unconditional love to both of my children, so that they seek that type of love in their future relationships.

Why You Will Marry the Wrong Person - Alain de Botton

Alain de Botton talks about loving the entire person, good and bad, and letting go of expectations that Perfect Love means perfect Understanding - without words and communication!  Our partner should just KNOW.

Also, more profoundly when this is present in both individuals in any relationship IMO...

"the core of what Love is is the willingness to interpret another's behavior"

THAT is when a relationship can truly thrive.

As A Man Thinketh by Earl Nightingale

Law of Attraction...maybe you've heard of this?  Maybe you were just thinking about it and now you're reading this?  (Yes!)

James Allen wrote "As A Man Thinketh" in 1903.  Over these past two years, my goal has been to Understand.  As I delved into healing my heart and my head, the Law of Attraction was referenced by almost every spiritual leader, life coach, Oprah, Jim Carey, Wayne Dyer, etc etc etc that I listened to.  And this law is expalined in writings way way way before any Instagram Influencer acted like they were the first one to share it with you.   Wayne Dyer talks about the Tao, which also speaks of this law, and those texts are from almost 2000 years ago.

I love this video, and it was helpful to read the original text as well.  Ultimately, our minds are magnets...and we are always attracting what we think about, good or bad.  With that kind of power, why think of anything bad again?

"We're all self-made, but only the successful will admit it"


Watch this one...again, and again.

Change Your Life in 19 Minutes with Earl Nightingale

and if you like that you should watch Napoleon Hill, author of "Think and Grow Rich"

Napoleon Hill Laws of Success

OK I'm quickly realizing that I have about 50 videos saved and I can't share them all in one post but as you watch these, you will see more and more that speak to the same principles.  I find time becomes irrelevant in the studio as I listen to these positive speakers over and over.  Repetition is so important, as well as understanding where these beliefs come from and how many scientists, theologians, doctors, etc have confirmed almost all of these ideas on the quantum level.  Energy is what moves the universe.  Thoughts, feelings, have more power than we are ever led to believe.

I'll leave you with one section of a four part conversation between Wayne Dyer and Deepak Chopra "Beyond Miracles"

Wayne discusses the spiritual, Deepak the scientific...and really, to me, shows that once you see the miracle of who we are and what we are made of on the smallest scale, you can't NOT believe in an Infinite Wisdom, an Infinite Intelligence. 

I highly recommend all 4 parts of the conversation, but this was the section that really resonated with me, because here's what I think we all need more of, for ourselves and for others: the ability to believe in our ability to change.  And, our understanding that we are all made of the SAME things.

Deepak explains how quickly our cells re-generate, change, become new.  We are not the same body today that we were one day ago, one year ago, ten years ago.  Yet, our memories remain.  Where exactly, then, are these memories stored?  The cells that were in our brain as a young child are no longer here as an adult, yet our memories remain.

There's a magic in our minds.  There's mystery and beauty and SO MUCH to learn about ourselves. 

So many this list becomes a brief overview of what I would like to work on going into 2019

Love:  Learn to communicate, learn to understand where every person I love is coming from.  Why they feel the way they feel, why they react the way they react.  It's amazing how quickly fights and misunderstandings can be fixed with communication.  And, it's important to teach this empathy to my children, and also to teach them to expect it from those who love them.

Success: Have a desire (goal, plan, etc) and let this desire inspire my thoughts and actions every day.

Unlimited Potential: Our bodies and minds are always growing, always in the process of changing and becoming new.  Believe that I always have the capacity to grow and improve and change...and so does every other person I meet.

Wishing you all love, success, and unlimited potential in 2019!!

Thursday, December 27, 2018

Cutlets and Compression Garments

I'm cleaning out everything.  Do you get that way once or twice a year, too?  Maybe it's all the presents that came into the house at Christmas while at the same time we're heading into the blank canvas of a new year.  Plus, the kids are outgrowing stuff literally and figuratively day by day.

The purge is cathartic, exciting, therapeutic, etc.  Wayne Dyer encouraged his students to "give it all away...without the need for compensation" (I'm paraphrasing) 

As I was going through my dresser drawer by drawer, I came across a few things I had forgotten about.  And it reminded me that I am in a much better place, mentally and physically, than I was a few years ago.

When I started to test the dating waters after my divorce, I worried.  Worried about being Enough.  Enough to attract a new partner.  I mean...I was never enough to so many in my life already.  It didn't matter how many presents I sent or parties I threw or phone calls I made or how I kept my house or raised my kids or what I accomplished in my professional life...the elusiveness of Love plagued me every day.  And because I witnessed the people whose (unconditional) Love and Approval and Support I desired so much be so freely doled upon everyone else with great enthusiasm...I kept thinking that the reason I was not privy to the same treatment was because I STILL WASN'T ENOUGH.

Bra inserts to make my breasts look bigger.  Tight compression garments to make my butt look smaller.  If I could just fit myself into some mold of The Perfect Woman, I would find someone who loved me back.

One night, getting ready to go out, I put the cold cutlets into my bra and tightened up my thighs and (let me just add...I only weighed about 115 and I'm 5'4"!) as I was leaned over to grab a pair of shoes from the floor of my closet, those slippery boob inserts slipped right out of my bra and onto the floor.

I LAUGHED SO HARD.  I was ready to humiliate myself leaving a trail of fake jellyfish because I thought bigger BOOBS would make me more attractive?!?  I laughed that moment off...but it took a while for the lesson to sink in!

It was only after a seriously life changing event that I could finally SEE that ZERO amount of posturing or prostituting, padding or pinching, would endear my heart and soul to anyone who couldn't see my worth EXACTLY as I am.  

And that's when I stopped looking outwards - I had to start inside.  I had to see myself as beautiful and talented and WORTHY and nurturing and loving and funny and accomplished.  I had to see myself through the eyes of my students and my friends.  I had to remind myself of what pure love felt like...reverting back to my childhood and feeling the embrace of my Babu...the purest Love I could remember.  I have to daily remind myself that the Universe, Infinite Intelligence, Mother Nature, God (however you define it for yourself) does NOT see me as angry or depressed or stupid or selfish.  The Higher Power sees every good intention, every bit of joy, every ounce of Love that I am, and wants to nurture me as the perfect being that I am.

Love.  That is what will define me.  Not boob inserts or duct taped thighs.  That nurturing force of Love CRUSHES anything else.  Shame, manipulation, guilt...these emotions that I was so used to for so long are finally receding as the waves of love break down old habits and self doubt.

Slowly...I removed the voices from my life and my head that kept harping on my shortcomings, and started amplifying the voices that built up my strengths.  And what this does is allows me to do the same for those I adore and love and nurture in return.  I am a better teacher, a better mother, a better partner because I practice this attitude to as many people as I can every day:  build up their strengths, don't harp on their weaknesses.  Be a source of Unconditional Love that knows mistakes are part of the journey - we are ALL learning and growing and improving every day.

Love people for who they are...nurture the aspects of their greatness...always believe in their amazing potential.  It brings great Joy to my heart to BE that person for myself, and for whoever else needs it from me, every day.

And..if you feel better about yourself with a padded bra or a control top waist do YOU.  If it makes you FEEL good, go for it!  But I hope that you never ever feel that there is a magic garment or insert that makes you worthier of love...because, dear soul, you are already perfect, and worthy.  And I send you great love. 

Thursday, December 13, 2018

It's Just Dog Pee on a Backpack

A couple of months ago, my 11 year old daughter was feverishly working on her "list of things we will do" for a weekend with one of her good friends.  According to Ari's list, the weekend would not be complete without a Dollar Store scavenger hunt, shopping at the outlet mall, matching outfits for a family birthday party...and those are just the few points I can remember!

What I do remember was telling Ari that I would fund part of the adventures, but she was going to be responsible for the rest of her spending money.  I encouraged her to look for opportunities to earn money to present themselves, and then be willing to adjust her list if necessary, knowing the weekend was going to be awesome no matter what the budget ended up being.'s what you have to know about Arianna.  She just knows everything is going to be fine.  Every dog is going to be her best friend.  Every shopping trip will end with donuts.  Every school day has lunch period, so how bad can it be?  She has a wonderful attitude to have every day!

So...countdown to weekend of fun...long list of spending opportunities...small budget...but open to the universe presenting opportunities...and then...

One morning Ari was at the bus stop in her dad's neighborhood.  A woman with a puppy was walking by, and of course the dog WILL be Ari's new best friend, so Ari is enthusiastically petting the dog.  Well, as dogs sometimes do, he decided to lift his leg...and pee, right on her backpack.

Immediately the woman was frantically trying to pull the dog away, apologizing profusely, as Ari broke out in her usual goofy laughter and said "but it's a puppy!!! Look at his fluffy tail!"  She was sincerely nonplussed by the turn of events!  The woman was trying to find a working water hose, rubbing grass clipping on the pee to try to soak it off, etc.  She even said "I am going to buy you a new backpack!"  Ari assured her that this was NOT necessary.

However, the next morning, the same woman showed up at the bus stop, cash in hand.  And Ari really tried to refuse the money, but the woman insisted she take it.

So, when Ari returned to my house a couple days later, she relayed the story to me, and I was incredibly proud of her for how she handled the situation.  She knew the backpack was just a thing - she didn't get flustered at the woman, or her dog, or make matters worse but getting upset at the situation.  And, she did try to refuse the money.

So, I said to Ari, that there will be a lot of situations like a dog peeing on your backpack, situations where you could decide to shrug or laugh it off, or situations where you can get angry and make matters worse.

(Don't get me wrong - there are DEFINITELY situations where justifiable anger is the order of the day.  But, if no one is physically or mentally hurt or abused, if the opportunity is there to shrug it off and walk away...then do so.  The momentum could easily shift from "let's get angry and blow this out of proportion" to "let's have some perspective and keep calm".)

In my opinion, Ari's calm response and her knowing that everything would be ok, was what allowed the universe to present her with some of the money she needed for her weekend-of-fun to-do list.

There are times where anger seems like the correct response...but probably not. (TRUST ME...this is coming from a woman who was jailed based on a lie on the day of her daughter's dance recital.)  I can tell you for certain: out of everything that happened to me and my children over the last couple of years, I can distinctly feel the difference in my life, and in my heart, and in my soul from BEFORE i learned to "shrug it off" to after.

People lie...people manipulate...entrap...coerce...abandon...and sometimes, the worse thing they do is perpetuate an idea that you are not worth forgiveness, support, or love.  But I have never felt more powerful than I do today.  Because the power never lies in lies or manipulation or revenge - true power is the energy to focus your life, focus your thoughts, focus your mind in a direction that will propel you to greatness. 

After all...isn't it all dog pee on your backpack?  You always get to decide how to respond...and your attitude will help you see the solutions that the universe already has lined up for you. 

May Dog Pee With You.

Monday, June 12, 2017

16 Saints for Our Lady of the Mountains Roman Catholic Church Jasper, Georgia

My dear friends...I feel like I have abandoned you and I am so sorry!  I'm not sure why life takes the turns it does all the time, and sometimes, only with hindsight, do we get to actually understand what was happening and Why.

These past few months have been very challenging for me on a personal level, and unfortunately now on many other levels as well.  I'm going to spare you the details, but I will tell you this...we all have trials, we all have challenges, we all have grief and suffering.  Our experiences are valid because they are happening to us, effecting us, and shaping us.  No one escapes challenges. 

I was lucky enough to have lunch with one of my favorite people yesterday, and after I got done explaining my situation, she shared a trial in her own life...and immediately mine seemed small in comparison.  My mind immediately shifted into "How do I help my friend?  What are the right words to say?  What can I DO for her?"

Truth is...sometimes...just listening is enough.  Sometimes...just an extra long hug is enough...sometimes cooking dinner is enough.

Sometimes...knowing that we all experience hardships is enough.  Others have triumphed, and we can as well.  For many people, seeking out an example of perseverance, sacrifice, love, determination, strength, is necessary.

I was lucky enough to create portraits of 16 Saints for Our Lady of the Mountains Roman Catholic Church in Jasper, Ga that - hopefully - will do exactly that.  Hopefully, looking upon these faces will humanize these saints for the viewer...will help you see them as human beings seeking guidance, love, understanding just as we all are.  I truly hope that looking into their eyes and gazing upon their likeness as I have interpreted them will provide a small measure of comfort to anyone who needs it.

Saint Vincent de Paul

Saint Joan of Arc

Saint Edmund Campion

Saint Martin of Tours

Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton

Saint Sebastian

Saint Maria Goretti

Saint Louis the King

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Portrait of Jon Snow: Game of Thrones Fan Art

Winter sure is taking a long time to get here!

OK...I could easily fill a whole post with Game of Thrones quotes...but let's get right to my obsession with painting the characters, ok?  I have to get back into the studio!

Right from the start - like most other Game of Thrones fans - I loved Kit Harington's portrayal of Jon Snow.  I've never read the books, so I didn't come to the TV series with any pre-conceived notions of who he should be, so I guess in that way I was lucky.  Anyway - Kit Harington, obviously, is a very good looking man, and combined with the cinematography and costumes and his amazing acting I had no choice - had to paint a portrait of Jon Snow!

So just the other day I was lucky enough to get my hands on a tube of Torrit Grey - the color that Gamblin Oil Paints releases every year in honor of Earth day.  It is created from all of the dust particles trapped in their filters over the course of the last production year. turns out to be a perfect foil to one of my painting characteristics:  I love color.  Maybe a little too much at times.  I am always trying to "tone down" my skin tones.  So...I found a Jon Snow screenshot that I liked, him in a cool green forest with an overall atmosphere of grey-ish green, and got out my usual palette.

However, this time, every color I mixed - from the black of his hair to the green of the trees to the flesh on his cheeks - had a touch of Torrit grey mixed in.  Sometimes more, sometimes less.  Now I am not the first artist to do this - having a pile of color that an artist mixes into each color on his painting is sometimes referred to as "the mother".  An artist will add a touch of this to every color she mixes, to unify the palette.  Often times this is a light purple, like a periwinkle, sometimes a combination of alizarin crimson, white, and blue (french Ultramarine would work)

Once I knew the reference photo I wanted, the color approach I wanted, I got to work, starting with transparent red oxide on 11" x 14" gessoed panel.

I spent a lot of time on subtle tweaks to every angle on the face - a slight change in the arc of the eyebrow changed the expression from fear to steadfast, a crinkle in the corner of the eye from thoughtfulness to rage, the line of the lips changed from tense to confident.  It's amazing what subtle changes can do to an expression.  And I am so in awe of what this amazing actor captures in just a glance, I wanted to be sure to honor that in every stroke.

I've also painted Tywin Lanister, Master Luwin, and Lady Stark (I will share her portrait soon!)