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!

Saturday, April 22, 2017

"Delicious"

An Italian woman I know described a family gathering where her kids served fried chicken, sweet potatoes, corn on the cob... I can't remember the menu, but you know, food.  My friend was rather put out about it.  "Who wants to eat that kind of stuff?!"  I don't know, everybody?  She muttered to herself about how the guests ate it all.  There weren't even leftovers, which really ticked her off.  Damned kids and grandkids have no appreciation for her lifetime of cooking.

This woman made lasagna for my last birthday because she knows I like it.  It was the best lasagna I've ever had.  It brought a tear to my eye.  I was tempted to call her kids up and call them ungrateful too.  This is a woman that bakes bread every week, makes pasta from scratch, and cans gallons of tomato sauce every year.  She makes the most delicious rice balls, and the very idea of rice balls was perplexing to me before I had one of hers.  I also later found out that everybody else's rice ball are pale, globby imitations of spectacular.

I took a day drive out to Middlefield, Ohio with my brother this week.  I guess it's only about 25 miles away, but it feels far.  Bro wanted to go to an archery store, and I thought it was downright ridiculous to drive so far for a store, but it was a nice day for a drive down country roads.  You can go pretty fast down those roads too, except when you get stuck behind an Amish buggy.

I examined the taxidermied dead animals and the murderous looking crossbow points while the nice boy at the store fiddled something onto Bro's bow.  To be honest, I hadn't really thought about the archery business being about killing animals.  I thought it was target practice and a little exercise.  That's all I ever did when I was a kid, though some of the older boys would shoot dry reeds at me, and that kind of smarted when they got me.  Older boys are nasty you know -- but the boy at the store was really nice, and Bro and I agreed that everybody is nice in the country.

We stopped at the cheese factory and I got a lump of Swiss cheese and a loop of trail bologna.  Mmmm... I wanted to find a restaurant out there for dinner, but Amish people apparently go home at 5:00.  I like Amish food.  It's just regular stuff that my Italian friend doesn't consider fit for her offspring, but sometimes I really miss the days when all American restaurants had some variation of meat, potatoes and gravy, vegetables.  Not like an Applebee's variation of the theme that's too amplified, I just want a fat grandma's basic cooking.  With pie.

When I was little, my family used to travel down different country roads to visit my great grandpa.  We always went to an Amish restaurant on these trips, and I suppose Amish food has become enmeshed in my mind with warm, loving memories.  I've been on a life-long search to find apple dumplings the way they used to be, but you never know, maybe the memory is better than what's possible to create in reality?

Bro and I wandered our way back through all the country roads and ended up eating at Aladdin's, which is Lebanese, and totally delicious in its own way.  The blueberry "Concrete Mixer" was a delicious ice cream dessert from a different road trip.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

"Fable"

Dr. Seuss (Theodor Seuss Geisel) was clearly the greatest poet of the 20th century, and he shaped more minds than anyone else ever.  Don't argue.  It's true.  You know it.

I recently read a book about Eva Braun, Hitler's girlfriend which talked quite a bit about German fairy tales.  The author's idea was that the viciousness of German children's stories had a part in the attitudes of the German people during WWI and WWII.

I don't know about that.  I wasn't there, and I'm not German.  What I do know is that my father (who had some German ancestors, so I guess I'm sort of German?) was thrilled when he came into possession of an archival-quality copy of Grimm's fairy tales.  He settled us kids around and read us Cinderella.  Dad was a great story teller.  He pitched his voice for drama, used funny voices, and everything.

I went to bed that night and screamed every time I fell asleep.  I had visions of the evil step sisters bleeding and mutilated, because in the original story, one sister cut off her toes to get her foot into the glass slipper, and one cut off her heel.  Even though my young self had a problem imagining how to cut off a heel, I understood cut off toes easily enough.  Screams rang through the night.  Screams kept my family awake for two weeks.  Apparently, my German ancestry is too diluted for me to handle the brothers Grimm -- though sufficient for a book burning.  After two weeks of night terrors, Dad reluctantly built a fire in the back yard and let me toss the horrible book into the flames.  My nightmares stopped.

I was given a Dr. Seuss album, a record -- you know, that object with magically recorded sounds in the dark ages before CDs, DVDs, and youtube.  I sat on the floor, with my eyes wide open and cheeks pink with the thrill of story time.  I also owned a Yertle the Turtle book which I read in sync with the magical voice coming out of the spinning machine.  Clearly, Dr. Seuss understood how to talk to children better than the Grimms.

I've pondered the Eva Braun author's theory about German fairy tales stressing obedience at the threat of dire punishments.  She might be right that stories and attitudes made for a militant society, but I'm glad I grew up in a time of Dr. Seuss and Yertle the Turtle.

The story in brief, is that Yertle the Turtle was the king of all the turtles.  He wanted to see farther than his pond, so he made the other turtles stack themselves up and he climbed on top for a better view.  This was pretty punishing for Mack on the bottom of the pile, who politely complained.  Mack burped and the pile toppled...

"And today the great Yertle, that Marvelous he,
Is King of the Mud.  That is all he can see.
And the turtles, of course... all the turtles are free
As turtles and, maybe, all creatures should be."

Did you know Dr. Seuss wrote this about Hitler?  I didn't either.  Seems like he could've written for some of the people alive today.  Maybe we should do a fundraiser and send copies of the book to some of these people?

Oh, right.  We have youtube now.  Watch it here.

Friday, April 7, 2017

"Illusion"

Have you ever walked past a mirror, without realizing it was a mirror?  Then, you notice that person looks familiar.  Oh wait!  That's actually me!  What did you think in the moment before all of your pre-programmed self-perceptions kicked in?  Did you think the unknown person was ordinary, attractive, or what?  Odds are, you probably didn't think that hideous person shouldn't be allowed out in public and will never be loved.

I had a conversation with a guy friend this week about our self-perceptions.  Both of us had some issues when we were kids, and there were some spiteful people who pointed out our physical imperfections.  When you get told that often enough, it becomes part of who you are, and it gets difficult to see who is really looking back at you in the mirror.

There was a time when I was a teenager when I studied myself in the mirror with a fashion magazine at hand.  I examined my features and I thought they were reasonably similar to the girls in the magazine.  I couldn't see why I was uglier than they were -- but the prevailing consensus seemed to be that I was ugly, and since beauty is in the eye of the beholder, I must be ugly.  I just accepted it with a heavy sigh.

Ah, if only we could go back and talk to our younger selves, right?  The biggest sin of bullies is that they can convince us to bully ourselves long after their cruel remarks.  I'll accept that there was a time in my life when I was too tall and gangly, I needed braces, and the prepubescent awkwardness of growing wasn't particularly kind to me, but at the time I was looking in the mirror all of that had mostly settled into place.  I wish I could tell that teenager she was pretty even if she didn't know it, and nobody really cared about that zit on her chin.

I think many of us, if not all of us, still look in the mirror with the same skewed self-perceptions that I had back then.

I dreamed a memory of my grandmother this morning.  I was my usual unkempt, wild self with a mop of tangled hair in my face.  She stroked my hair back and cooed to me before getting a scrap of fat, pink yarn to tie my hair back with a pretty bow on top.  She said I had a pretty face and it was a shame to cover my eyes with hair.  I felt pleased that Grandma thought I was pretty, and she showed me that it was so in the mirror.  I snuggled into her warm softness for a while before resuming my romping play, but I kept that bit of yarn for a long time afterwards.  It was a little bit of love I could keep in a box.

I more recently worked with women who have that Grandma quality of saying the positive.  They tell other women that they're pretty and compliment someone's new shirt.  Their kindness is remarkable in that encouraging, complimentary remarks are so seldom heard in the world.  I followed their example and told my guy friend he's handsome, and he is.  He just needs to remember to see beyond the illusion in the mirror.  We all need to see our own beauty, not just in what we look like, but in every way our individuality is beautiful.

Friday, March 31, 2017

"Hot"

I'm experiencing a dreary, rainy day and wishing for some sun.  I noticed this layout when I recently backed up some old files.  Did you know files stored on CDs and DVDs may fail over time?  Files on flash drives can fail too if you don't plug them in once in a while.  Also, store CDs and DVDs flat, not on their edges.

This layout wasn't bought, if you can believe it.  I thought it was better than the chocolate spoons at any rate.  They didn't buy my alternate idea either.  Sometimes I can dust off a layout and sell it to someone else, but I've never found a home for these layouts.

A lot of times there's no way of knowing why something doesn't sell.  Maybe the box cost more to produce than the customer wanted to pay?  Salespeople often don't express the customer's needs as well as the designer needs to understand them.  Maybe the customer didn't like the design or colors.  I liked this art, but it might've been because I was sick of doing things with dreary colors and labored illustrations.  Who knows?

You've got to be thick-skinned when you do art for a living.  Most of your work won't sell, and if you want to survive, you've just got to accept that.

When I started out, I didn't accept this truth.  People insisted on wanting the "wrong" layouts.  They didn't understand the effort I'd put into things or how proud I was of certain designs.  They weren't taking my feelings into consideration at all (!), and they could be nasty about it too.  I suppose I added to that dynamic when I got hot about it and tried to argue for the "right" designs.

"Don't discount the value of [your client's] expertise.  When he says something you don't agree with, ask him what he means.  Assume he's got a reason for saying it, and that you could learn something by listening to that reason." ~ boss to Bob Anderson after he strongly disagreed with a client's course of action.

I cut that quote out of a magazine years ago, and it's been hanging on my wall ever since.  I got in a lot fewer disagreements with customers after I accepted this wisdom.  When my sun design wasn't purchased, I shrugged my shoulders.  I was new to my job and didn't understand the full psychology of chocolate spoons.  Okay, I still don't understand the spoons.  Just give me a chunk of chocolate.  Chocolate makes meetings go better anyway.

There was another client about this time who wanted packaging in dull varieties of gingham.  (Yawn.)  I kept trying to get them to accept something more interesting, but they stuck with gingham.  When I went into one of their stores, it all made sense.  I quit wasting my time trying to elevate their tastes.  It became easy money, and that's always good.  I saved my energy for other clients.

Perhaps the most important thing I learned is don't show a "wrong" layout at all.  If you don't want the customer to choose it, do another layout.  If you don't have time, just show the one you want them to pick.  One good layout is better than a binder full of crap.

Even better, one good check is worth a little creative idealism :)

Saturday, March 25, 2017

"Umbrella"

A friend of mine told me about moving to the U.S.  He left his young family in the old country while he worked to establish his career and make it possible to bring them here.  His wife complained he wasn't working hard enough or fast enough, and she didn't think he sent enough money home for the family's comforts.  My friend had made so many sacrifices, he didn't even spare the money for himself for an umbrella.  He got soaked in a downpour when he was walking in a city, and had a moment of anger about his nagging wife's ingratitude, his loneliness, and the misery of how hard life can be.

I can live his moment so vividly in my mind.  It was his experience, but I think about it sometimes.  Ever since he told me about it, umbrellas have become a symbol to me.  I'm not poor if I have one.  I'm rich because I now have three.  I won't get wet, and I don't have an ungrateful, nagging spouse.  Life is good.

We choose whether or not to be happy, no matter what the weather is doing.  Lately, I've been aware of how my thoughts effect my creativity.  Am I drowning in a downpour, or sitting on a sunny beach under an umbrella's shade?

It's so easy to lose the momentum of our dreams.  We can confide our hopes to someone who blows holes through them.  Maybe they're just nasty, but often, the people who are destructive to our inspiration think they have our best interests in mind.  They want us to be practical and safe.  "Safe" never painted a masterpiece, created a vaccine, or changed the world.

You have to step out of your comfort zone to try something new.  You have to be willing to stumble and fail when you try new things.  You should even expect to stumble and experience set backs.  If it was entirely easy, and anyone could do it, would it matter?

Motivation dies when we think too much of the past, or too much about the future.  Past failures can make us believe our new efforts will fail too.  Thinking about the future can make us fear the unknown.  I think everyone can relate to fears of failure, but what about our fears of success?  What if you write the perfect book, get a publisher, and have to do public speaking on a book tour?  Or, are you so enraptured by your vision of the future that you don't sit down and do the things that make that future possible?

Most creative people have experienced the melting of time when you are so absorbed in what you're doing that hours disappear.  For those of us who have experienced this, it's a ecstatic state we're always seeking and often disappointed in finding.  We might try too hard, or avoid trying because we don't want to feel that disappointment.  Do it anyway.

Do it in your own voice, in your own way.  That's the gift that creative people give to the rest of the world, because nobody else can do what you can do.

It's something I've been telling myself a lot lately, and have been in a pretty blissed out state about it.  I wrote 10,000 words this week.  Yay!!!  There may come a time when I feel like I'm standing in a downpour without an umbrella, but why ruin today with a prospect that's only a possibility?  I'm choosing to see life as a sunny day on the beach for now :)

Friday, March 17, 2017

"Snail"

I enjoyed some spectacular spring-like days in February before getting socked with more snow and cold in March.  I used those unusually lovely days taking out my frustrations on my yard, whacking on a slowly rotting tree.  I stirred up a lot of angry ants and a bunch of mildly inconvenienced armadillos.

"We don't have armadillos in Ohio!" my friend said.  Well, yeah we do.  What would you call them?  Um, maybe potato bugs?  Pill bugs?

I looked up potato bug images and found some ugly, icky things.  Quite unlike the cute little armadillos.  Further research informs me my armadillos are actually woodlice, which doesn't sound cute either.  My friend pointed out what I already knew, if I had armadillos, I had rotting wood.  Since they're living in a slowly disintegrating tree in the back 40, I don't really care.

And yeah, my friend the eternal ray of sunshine pointed out that when the tree is gone, the armadillos are going to move somewhere, most likely my garage.  That's probably an astute, practical observation, but I'll deal with that at some unspecified time in the future.

I know I'm not the only person with affection for armadillos (woodlice, not the mammals that can give you leprosy).  Lots of little children have cupped the gentle little bugs in their hands and pretended to gobble the pill bugs.  They curl up into little balls, and neatly tuck in their legs so they're not creepy on ticklish hands.  Well, sometimes their little legs flutter like a feather, but that's just cute.

I also find tiny snail shells in my garden, but I have never found a living snail.  I find this very mysterious.  I have plenty of slugs though.  I think slugs and snails must be related, but the snails seem far more considerate about enclosing their slime in their own self-contained packaging.

I gently moved some worms out of my way and think I must not have changed very much since I was an intent child examining the local fauna in my environment?  My dad was good at encouraging my interests.  We had a lot of field guides to study, and sometimes he took my study subjects away for bait.

I'm just rambling with pleasant memories and associations.  The book I've been working on has a much different tone, and maybe I just need to contemplate quiet, childish play?  I was going to write a novel, but my non-fiction idea insists on coming into existence.

I looked up how many pages I have to type to create a book, but the advice is not to count pages, count words.  That's easy to do in a Word document under "tools".  Average books have 55,000 to 175,000 words, with the average about 80,000 words.  So far I'm over 21,000.  Woo hoo!  1/4 of the way there!  Okay, not all of these words are the best words, so it's going to take a lot more work, but I'm humming and happy about the process.

I've actually been pleased the weather turned back to winter.  It keeps me inside and typing.  I'm worried my budding pear trees are in trouble, but we all need to sacrifice a little in creating.  If I lose them, I guess the armadillos and tree snails will have something to eat instead of my garage?

Friday, March 10, 2017

"Punk"

A friend of mine dated a band promoter when we were in college.  He was a nice guy, and I enjoyed hanging out with him on my porch, drinking and talking.  Pleasant as this was, he would be completely forgettable in her long string of boyfriends if he hadn't asked us to go to Chicago for a concert.  We could get a ride with the band on their bus.

"Thanks, but that's a long drive, and I have a lot of homework."

Responsible words I'll regret the rest of my life.  The next time we were drinking on my porch, the radio drifting through the open window, my friend's bf exclaimed, "That's the band!  That's who I took to Chicago!"  The Talking Heads.  I could've taken a bus trip with the Talking Heads.  NOoooooo!!!  Some head pounding and aauurrgh!!!

Well, let's chalk it up to a life lesson.  When someone invites you to do novel things, go.  As sung in "Once in aLifetime" by The Talking Heads...

And you may ask yourself
Where does that highway go to?
And you may ask yourself
Am I right? Am I wrong?
And you may say yourself,
"My God! What have I done?"

Wikipedia says this band was post-punk, but close enough for "punk".  I've been happily chair dancing to their music while putting this bus together.  I try to avoid swimming in regrets.

I called another friend last night to bubble about my recent productivity in writing.  I tamped down my self-congratulations when I learned he just missed passing a state exam he needs for a mid-life career change.  It's not the first time he just missed passing it.  The last time, he bumped his head and got a concussion before the test and was only 2 points shy of his certificate.  This time, on the way to the test he got flagged down by a couple of young people who had just been robbed at knifepoint.  He called 911 and had to fill out a police report, making him worry he'd miss the test altogether.

"Are you sure you really want this career ?  It seems like there are unusual obstacles cropping up whenever you try to take the test."

He talked a lot about getting older, it's a safer career, wanting a 401k plan.

"Yeah, but are you psyched about doing it?"

He talked more about sensible choices, but in the end, well, he doesn't like some critical aspects of this career choice.  He just has so much time and money already invested in this career change, doesn't he have to carry through?  No.  Not really.  He's reassessing.

I'm reassessing too.  I started writing a book that wasn't going anywhere.  I kept trying to force myself to work on it.  I finally gave up and starting writing one of my alternate book ideas.  Now I've been having a hard time leaving the computer long enough for lunch.  When we're doing what the heart loves, ideas flow, and time stops -- whether the heart loves sensible choices or not.  I'm hoping the universe will eventually reward me with a book deal for following my heart's desires.