Skip Dyrda, Muralist and More, Tells His Story

 

 

I know it sounds obvious for an artist to say this, but . . . I create. That’s what I do. Sure, the bulk of my work is painting murals, but that’s not my only creative outlet. In fact, just today I took a silver dinner fork and turned it into a stylish cat. It’s a gift for a friend.
All this started with my mom, who was very creative in a crafty kind away . . . you know, refrigerator magnets, Christmas ornaments, that kind of stuff. My own creativity started with building plastic models of mostly racecars from the track located just a few miles from where I grew up in Southeastern Pennsylvania. At one point, in the late 60s to late 70s, I began creating pen and ink drawings of the same racecars and even sold them all over the Northeastern United States. However, it wasn’t until I moved to Florida in the early 90s that I really got into all kinds of creativity.  It was after I was hired to work in a local art factory. It was there that my eyes were opened to what could be created in the art world. I started out doing screen-printing and airbrushing and then later I worked on paintings using all sorts of media . . . watercolors, acrylics, oil paints, and pen and ink. We even created steel plate etchings and handmade papers. After two years, I went out on my own. First I assisted a local sculptor in addition to creating hundreds paintings for cruise ships. It was around that time that I discovered the decorative arts.
I had been sharing an art studio with a friend who did work for local interior designers. When she would decline a job she thought too difficult, they would hire me to paint the custom canvas floor cloths and murals. Over the last 20 years or so, I have painted hundreds of murals, canvas floor cloths and paintings for private collectors and businesses. But I have found that my true love is painting outdoor murals. Specifically, murals we all know as ‘public art’. When I am painting outside, whether I am on a lift, on a ladder or on the ground, and public can watch and interact, it’s almost like being on stage. I discovered that the interaction with the public is one of my favorite parts about painting murals.

 

The other thing I like to do is paint site-specific murals so I can make sure it’s more than just a pretty picture on a wall. I prefer that the work has some sort of meaning, a reason for being there. And I’m also looking for reactions from the viewer, hopefully, a “wow” reaction. Additionally I like to try to entice the viewer into doing a ‘double take’, noticing something they did not see at first glance. I believe someone once said, ”The devil is in the details”.

 

For the last 2 years, I’ve been working with the Punta Gorda Historic Mural Society on several murals. The first was inside the fire station there, where I painted two large murals. I’m currently in the finishing stages of another, this one outside, called “Ladies Remembered”. This fall, I’ll be working under a bridge over the Peace River along the Harbor Walk, working on a mural that will sort of look like you can view aquatic life through the base of the bridge.

 

And in between all that, I keep creating, whether it’s making something out of a silver fork, my photography or graphic design. It’s what I do.
Oh, and one more thing. Look for the red string. It’s in almost all my work, it’s my ‘mark’. I’ve been including that for about twenty years.

Ivory Haze, Singer/Songwriter, Tells Her Story


 

 
 
My journey began as a young girl in Washington D.C; a city that’s birthed so much creativity that goes unnoticed in this politically-dominated society. Growing up there was always a sense of urgency to share my voice and singing soothed my mind when chaos drew near.
 
Music, unlike a job, is my calling, which has changed the dynamics of how I see my ultimate purpose here on earth. Recently, I’ve grown to understand I’m here to shed light on the truth! From the homeless man who fought in the war for our country to the young woman who was brutally beaten for years by her mother; and even to the housewife who isn’t happy in her marriage, these stories often go unseen. My hope is to shed light on such issues through my song writing and singing. My musical journey has brought me awareness about matters that are far beyond myself.
 
 
 
It hasn’t been easy breaking in to this industry but it is rewarding. I am continually touched by the audience’s response every time I am given the opportunity to perform on stage. These experiences inspired me to write my first single, “Statue of Liberty”, which is written for those seeking liberation – those seeking to be set free from the chains of life — those who decide that self-love and happiness conquers all.
 
 
 
 
 
 
I would be nothing without the sacrifices that my mother, Monique Jackson, made in developing a diverse palette of experiences for me to reflect upon. Now, I get to sit in this seat in complete admiration for the tremendous sacrifices she made in order for me to dream big and believe that I have the choice to be the person I’ve been sent here to become. My mother worked hard to put my brother and me through private education, which let me develop lifetime relationships with teachers and friends. Her choices encouraged me to want to have a better life and pushed me towards achievement.
 
 
One of my greatest accomplishments was auditioning for the Duke Ellington School of the Arts in Washington DC for high school. I remember the audition like it was yesterday; the colors, the talent, the energy was so infectious! I was accepted into their program because they saw a light in me that, at times, I didn’t always see in myself. Duke Ellington changed me and was just what I needed.

 

 
From there I went to George Mason University to study Classical Performance and received my Bachelors. College taught me a few things — your talent isn’t enough — you must work harder than what your mind will allow you to believe and life never stops giving you challenges.
I plan to release my first EP “Hiatusin March 2016 with a release party. In 2016 I will be traveling to Los Angeles in preparation for my move there in 2017. I’m working on my craft every day and I find the utmost joy in challenging myself to defeat barriers. My mantra is ‘You are only as good as your thoughts so always think positive.’
I’ve struggled with loving every bit of myself for years. It’s my story that I want to share with others. Hopefully, by creating this short introduction into my voyage to embrace my inner being, you will want to come along. I am striving to shift perspective and form a space for people to feel loved and to feel inspired no matter where they are in life.
“Don’t change under your influence, Become one” 
– Ivory Haze

Kim Downes, Shamanic Soap and Candle Maker, Tells Her Story

 

I was born and raised in the desert in Arizona so the spirit of the land and the essence of Native American culture has always been in me.  However, as time went on, I left that area for the East Coast, eventually living first in New York City and then moving to Washington DC. I always knew I would settle in Washington, DC every since taking a field trip here at the age of 12.  There’s just something about this place that called to me – almost like a call to duty!

I held positions in various law firms, working as a legal assistant. (I don’t really remember how I even got into that work because I have no legal background.) I remember one day looking at my outfit and thinking, “this is not me, why am I doing this? I’m an artist, with a background and a degree in photography!” It was then, in the mid 1990s, I seemed to have a spiritual awakening.  
 
 
 
 
 
However, while I still worked in the law firms, I began selling at Eastern Market on Capitol Hill in Washington DC, making jewelry out of plaster of Paris with various images and jewels embedded in it. Painted bright gold, it was definitely not the Washington DC conservative look! I recall sitting in the hot sun one August day and something just whispered to me quietly “make soap”.  At first I thought the voice said, “make soup,” but I quickly realized that would mean I was having a heat stroke!  But, seriously, I recognized that the Universe was giving me a gift and a direction, and I went with it. So, I turned down subsequent lucrative legal assistant positions and chose to put all my energy and time into creating aromatherapy products, adding candles, facial masks, foot baths, and all sorts of fun things at a time when no one was really doing any of that anywhere! As this was pre-internet days, I had to do research at the library as well as through trial and error.
 
 
 
 
 
As my business grew, one day I was searching the dictionary for a name for it and I happened upon the word Aurora. And that was it. Aurora was the Roman goddess of the Dawn, whose chariot arrived each day to open the gates for Apollo and let the sun to shine forth. My very first business cards read “Aurora Bath, Greet the Dawn, with a tagline: for Visionaries of the New Millennium.” I did not realize exactly what that meant at the time but, in hindsight, I see the guidance that I was given once again.
After a visit to the Roman Baths in Bath, England, I took a series of photographs there to represent my business and the spirit from which I felt it rise. I was very much inspired by the Greek and Roman goddesses of ancient times and how they created things to cleanse not only the body but the spirit, as well as to heal others. It was always of great importance to me that I help heal others with the products I create.  
 
 

 

 
 
 
I saw this most intensely after September 11th, 2001, when I created a Peace Candle and a Peace Soap. I saw the emotional devastation those tragic events brought upon the DC community and people flocked to get something, anything, to help keep their spirits up, to keep them centered and to make themselves feel better in general. 
In the local community I have become known as the Cherry Blossom Soap Queen after I started creating cherry blossom products in the late 1990s. I always had an affinity for the cherry blossoms every since I was young girl and was taught the cherry blossom song in Japanese, “Sakura”, which I can still sing in its entirety today! The cherry blossoms are so beautiful and they represent a nonpartisan part of Washington D.C that everyone can come together and agree upon. They’ve always symbolized the spirit of cooperation between the USA and Japan, and basically cooperation between any Nations and all peoples.
 
 
 
 
 
About eight years ago I began my formal shamanic studies with faculty from Alberto Villoldo ‘s Four Winds Society, training in the ancient tradition of the Laika in Peru. I completed by mesa work in 2014. I now see aromatherapy taking yet another twist and turn, especially after my shamanic studies, especially at this time in our history when things are shifting so rapidly now that we have moved into the age of light.  
I feel the community, the population as a whole, is now ready for the spiritual messages that I received over 20 years ago. I feel my products are needed more than ever. I’m called again to create new lines of candles and products specifically geared towards healing the human chakra system and keeping the vibration levels of those who purchase the candles very high.  
 
 
 
 
I so enjoy creating new products from various essential oils and channeling in the healing energy of the ancient goddesses. I have created unique artistic combinations of fragrances and products with a sense of integrity and a bit of humor. I incorporate these ideals into my life, reflect them through my business and pass that onto my customers. I think it’s what I do best and it is my intention to do the very best I can to help all those in need to greet the dawn of each new day.
 
 

Ellyn Weiss, Visual Artist & Curator, Tells Her Story

My work reflects an ongoing effort to integrate my two polestars: first, a commitment to environmental sustainability and scientific truth and second, my sheer delight in working with materials to make art. I always made artwork but, like so many of us, did not believe that it could be a viable career path. So after college I went to -wait for it – law school.
For the first 25 years of my working life, I was an environmental lawyer – as an Assistant Attorney General in Massachusetts, part of one of the first environmental protection units in the country, as a partner in a small public interest law firm, as General Counsel to the Union of Concerned Scientists and lawyer to many environmental groups around the country and as a partner in a large law firm.
The work was, for many years, deeply satisfying. But as time passed, I kept stealing more and more time to make art and, as I approached my 25th year in practice, I decided that half of my life had been given to environmental law and the next half could be dedicated to making art. I became a full-time artist. That was 20 years ago, as hard to believe as I find the passage of time. Before the leap, I did worry about changing who I “was” so completely and abruptly, but once it happened, I honestly never had a microsecond of regret.
Washington, DC is, in many ways, a good place to be an artist (although perhaps not the best place if you want to be an “art star”). It is a relatively small arts community that is easy to learn and navigate and I have found my fellow artists to be generous and welcoming. I have shown consistently throughout the region and been represented by several galleries over this period.

 

While I began as a painter, I quickly moved to experimenting with other media. I essentially gave up brushes about 15 years ago (although since seeing the DeKooning retrospective at MOMA several years ago, I have been yearning to pick up a brush again.) The first medium, after paint, that I worked in seriously was dry pigment and oil bars, laying successive layers down and excavating among them. I always delight in noting that one of those pieces, called “Twelve Linear Feet” is the largest work in the collection of the District of Columbia government shown at the Wilson Building downtown.
While the quality of artworks is a subject of eternal debate, quantity is objectively provable! I still make site-specific murals in these media on commission and I love to get back to it when I have the opportunity.

 

I think the next medium I became enthralled with was encaustic, a mixture of wax and resin that is applied to a surface while molten. Encaustic creates a beguiling surface that can be textured, colored, embedded with objects and manipulated in endless ways. I began making smooth encaustic paintings on panels, then fairly soon, began to physically manipulate, score, scratch, and dig into the surface.
I became interested in the fact that wax has an “objectness” that goes beyond being applied to a surface and hung on a wall; I worked for a couple of years, slowly uncoupling the wax from the support until I got it entirely free. I love the resulting sculptures.

 

When I find a new medium, I don’t give up the last one, I just add the new one to my repertoire. So it was with tar. I began working with tar in 2008. I saw an artist use tar like paint on paper and noticed that it created bleeding edges in shades of dark brown. It was a revelation to me that tar is a gorgeous brown, not black, and it led me to try slathering tar on boards and making images by removing the tar with solvent. (nasty, nasty – I know!) My first show of this work was at the Nevin Kelly Gallery in DC in 2009, called Dark Matter and it was followed a few year later by a show called Primordial Soup at McLean Project for the Arts. I put tar aside for a while but just this summer I have come back to it in preparation for a show in January at the Athenauem in Alexandria.

 

Finally, I am now working with wire and plastic coating to make sculptural forms. You may have noticed a strange preoccupation with nasty, smelly, probably toxic stuff. I don’t know why this is, but I do know that I don’t have an excess of brain cells to sacrifice. Maybe my next medium should be crayons.

 

I have always made prints along with whatever else I am doing, both as a way of keeping in touch with the satisfying immediacy of printmaking and a way to work through new ideas.
Beginning during a two-week residency in 2015 at the Zea Mays Printmaking Studio in western Massachusetts, I developed a process for creating monoprints directly on acrylic sheet. After the first week, during which time the snow outside the studio windows grew to several feet, I thought I had failed completely, but after a grueling period of trial and error, I began to figure out how long I need to allow for drying between applying layers, and it started to work. The prints have a depth and luminosity that are, in my experience, not achievable in other media.

 

Now let me move from the media to the message. My work has for many years been inspired by biological and natural structures and, in the past 5 years or so, by the threats posed by global climate change. I consider this to be the existential threat of our time and am committed to doing what I can with my artwork to help draw attention to the need for urgent action. Working with various collaborators, I have created installations dealing with the effects of the melting of the polar ice cap (Voyage of Discovery, American Association for the Advancement of Science, 2014; McLean Project for the Arts, 2015), the destruction of coral reefs worldwide (White Hot, Artists and Makers, 2016) and the climate-change caused migration of infectious diseases around the planet (Migration of Pestilence, Otis Street Arts Project, 2017).
The wax sculptures, called Unidentified Specimens, were first shown in the AAAS show; they represent life forms that have been under the polar ice for thousands of years but are now being released. For Migration of Pestilence, I began working with wire coated in plastic to make sculptural forms. For White Hot, I made corals from wax.

 

I believe that artists should be actively engaged in the community around us. Soon after the last election, my friend, Jackie Hoysted, and I convened a group of artists – ArtWatchDC – committed to developing ways to use the power of visual communication to express support for true democratic values, such as inclusion, tolerance, equality under the law, and stewardship of the environment.
The first major project begun by ArtWatch is One House. Over 200 artists thus far have made 12” x 12” panels dedicated to one of her/his ancestors who came to this country from elsewhere – whether in 1620 or last year, whether voluntarily or involuntarily.
Participants who are themselves immigrants have used the square for their own story. Since Native Americans were the first inhabitants of this land, they are invited to honor any ancestor whose life story is important to them. We have panels from artists whose ancestors arrived on the Mayflower and from artists who arrived in this country themselves very recently.
An underlying structure – the “house” – has been designed and it will be completely covered with the panels. One House will be shown in November 2017 at the Touchstone Gallery in Washington, DC.
We have designed One House to be replicable by groups around the country, artists or not, who would like to add their voices to the many around the country who stand for principle. Please visit our website and contact us for more information.

Wayne T. Wright, Musician, Tells His Story

The arts world holds much truth for all people and can be extremely intriguing for the human mind. These characteristics apply to all living creatures, especially those who live in another “dimension,” outside of the normal 3-D world.
For example, if a person has lost some typical attributes like motion — and the ability to control movement through the interplay with gravity, they may become disabled, with their motor memories frozen and atrophied in their brain. And yet, when they’re given a chance to experience music and the arts, another neuropath may be created in the brain which can open up new experiences, memories, and enjoyment.
My music career began with my brother and I lip-syncing R&B hits when I was 12 years old. We went to parties and gained some local recognition. Then we formed a band and started playing at sock hops and at community events.
G.L. Cole & The Shades
During this time, my sister was interested in and talented in music, sound, and the beat. She was born with a disorder called Down’s Syndrome. When Down’s people focus, they go all the way, especially in an “I love you” way. My brothers and I did things around the home with our little sister, and a school dance gave us an opportunity to play for her and her friends. We played, and they treated us as if we were the “Beatles” (asking for autographs, etc.!).  And so began my love of working with differently abled audiences. My father always told me when we met a person living with a disability, ”They are just like you and me inside!”
Wayne & Family
Twenty years ago, the mother of one of my friends asked if I wanted to play music for the lady friends she was supervising. When I arrived, it turned out that the ladies were in the late stages of Alzheimer’s. I thought they looked “rough,” but my friend suggested that I go ahead and play and let’s see what happens. I started with “Ain’t She Sweet,” and these women became animated and started talking. And they looked better, in terms of their energy and facial expressions. I was astounded, and thoroughly enjoyed the occasion. I kept the experience in my mind, but it was a number of years before I had a chance to play in a similar venue again.
Five or six years ago, I was given the opportunity to play at a therapeutic summer camp for teens with physical and emotional disabilities. I found the use of rhythm instruments helped some enjoy playing with the beat. Shortly after that, VSA asked if I would be interested in setting up some performances for disabled adults, and I was excited for the chance.
My first gigs — now called “workshops” — were learning experiences, and the percussion and rhythm instruments were a plus. I started conducting music workshops through the Arc of the Piedmont at three different locations.
Wayne at the Arc of the Piedmont
Then I was asked to go to Worksource, an organization where differently-abled individuals are given ways to feel independent through meaningful, real-world tasks.
Wayne with Steven at Worksource
Later, through VSA, two area high school Special Ed groups were added, and I played guitar and supported two young singers in the VSA Music Recital.
Wayne & Girls at the VSA Music Recital
During this same period, a group of Bluegrass musicians I play with started doing music programs at various senior centers and nursing homes. (There is a link to us playing at a nursing home at the end of this blog post if you’re interested in seeing and hearing us play.) Time and time again, we noticed how people with Alzheimer’s just “wake up” and enjoy the music while we are playing. The power of music is profound, and I want to set up more projects for people living with Alzheimer’s.
As I became aware of more senior citizen groups in the area, I set up a music workshop at the Golden Living center. I have enjoyed great times with these folks! VSA also made songwriter workshops available, and this gave me the opportunity to work with other musicians to encourage an inclusive song writing experience for young people.
There are large groups of challenged youth and adults in group homes during the day, and I had a dream of doing a music television program that would allow them to receive the relaxing gift of music wherever they were. So, I called Charlottesville Public Television and spoke to the director, Calvin Tate.  When I told Calvin my dream, he said, “We can do that!”
As a result, my program Soundaffects is now a monthly, 30-minute TV show on Comcast cable Channel 13. Through CPA-TV, the 30thepisode of this program aired in March 2017. CPA-TV allows me to copy DVDs of the program so that I can give them to venues and individuals who request them. I also have each episode posted on my website.
Wayne on CPA-TV’s Soundaffects
The music workshops and the TV program have been a blessing for me, and I will continue to seek ways to bring the gift of music to those who need it.
In the future, I would love to coordinate a concert series for differently abled individuals and include their caregivers. transportation assistants and family members. Dream big, and be willing to use your talents for the best benefit of all!

Faith Bradburn Keller, Painter, Tells Her Story

Putting brush to canvas for me has always seemed natural and something I was meant to do.  I primarily paint in oils and acrylics and, today, paint mostly landscapes.
 
 
Malta Landscape, Acrylic on Canvas, 9×13 – Malta is one of my favorite places to visit –
The landscape is varied and has Middle Eastern influences
As a teenager, I was greatly influenced by Caravaggio and other Italian masters and found myself studying countless paintings. I loved his use of Chiaroscuro and the exaggerated poses he painted. Because of my love of the Italian masters, I have always been drawn to the charm of Europe, especially Italy.
 
 
Cape Sounion at Sunset, Acrylic on Canvas, 11×14 –
Beautiful view outside of Athens, next to the Temple of Poseidon
Three years ago I landed a job teaching painting for a cruise line. Little did I know then how that ‘job’ would add so much richness to my life! Since then I have traveled most of the world by sea while teaching painting workshops, lecturing and demonstrating painting techniques to travelers. My travels have taken me to places I had only dreamed of before and have filled me with thankfulness and creative inspiration.
 
 
The Conqueror, Acrylic on Canvas, 16×29 – Italy –
Lonely olive tree I saw in a botanical garden that has managed to survive the effects of erosion
Immersing myself in this new adventure of teaching while traveling gave me the confidence to realize that I CAN become the artist I’ve always dreamt to be. I have found renewed strength and courage and have no fear of stepping out to experience uncharted waters within myself or, literally, the world. I just completed my last voyage and have returned home to Sarasota, Florida to focus solely on painting and teaching (on dry land for a change).
 
Learning from other cultures, speaking and relating to new people, some who have become forever friends, has helped me grow and more intimately understand that we are all similar.  No matter where we live, we each want what is best for our family, our country, and ourselves. I also found a spiritual connection to a Creator who loves us enough to design a new sunset, with an ever-changing array of colors every single day, for our viewing pleasure.
 
 
In The Wilderness, Acrylic on Panel, 8×10 –
Rhodes, Greece 
 
Wherever we docked, the first place I headed to was the museum. I was eager to set my eyes on and devour the art I had only seen in books. Some museums I visited more than once, because once was not enough. I also sought out markets, parks and old buildings, and walked down streets imagining who had walked those same streets before me. Who touched those same walls and tripped on the same jutted cobblestones? It is thrilling to know that those same places were once graced with the likes of Da Vinci, Tintoretto, Michelangelo and, of course, Caravaggio.
 
 
Old Timer, Acrylic on Canvas, 16×29 – Olive trees live for hundreds of years –
I was inspired by the gnarled twisted trunks that continue to thrive and produce fruit
I love painting landscapes because they tell a story. Landscapes continually change. The same scene at different times of the day can take on a completely different mood just by the changing light, and I seek to capture that in my paintings. That is why I enjoy painting on location, en plein air, because it allows me to experience the scene as it happens — to actually witness the light, colors and feel of the place. I also take dozens of photos to use as reference when I’m back in the studio. That combined with fond memories of the port we’re sailing from inform my paintings.
 
 
The Fence, Oil on Canvas, 14×18 – Kefalonia, Greece –
One of the northern islands that is more green and lush than the other greek islands
 

Petra Teršlová, Painter, Tells Her Story

I have been interested in art since my childhood. My parents took me often abroad so I had a chance to see different cultures including various forms of art. For its freedom and variety, both in culture and art, I fell in love with London, which I have visited every year since I was about 15 years old. I enjoyed the time spent in the National Gallery and Tate Modern watching and analysing the paintings. Although I admired the talent of those great artists such as Turner, Gogh and Sisley, I myself couldn´t paint at all.
 

 

Dream, oil on linen, 70 x 70 cm

 

My first attempt to paint was just several years ago while I was studying law at the Charles University in Prague. The truth is that I really enjoyed my studies. On the other hand; however, I felt I needed to balance my life with some different activity, totally unrelated to law. I experienced a very urgent desire to have a break from loads of thick books, complicated and constantly changing laws and many not very easy-to-digest cases which had to be read and learnt. At that time I relaxed doing sports, but then it somehow was not enough. I felt that I needed to be active in some other – more creative – way.
 

 

New Beginnings, oil on linen, 70 x 90 cm

 

I gave painting a chance – it was playful, colourful, free and spontaneous. I found the whole new world to discover. At the beginning I struggled a lot because of the lack of any art education. But I was eager to learn and experiment on my own with different media and techniques. However, I felt that I could have made much bigger progress if I had taken classes with real artists.
 

 

Fragments, oil on canvas, 50 x 60 cm

 

During my studies at the Charles University and after my graduation I had an opportunity to attend many art courses at The Art Academy in London. I was lucky enough to meet and learn from excellent painters such as Tai-Shan Schierenberg, Brendan Kelly, Catharine Prendergast and many others.
 
Since then my work developed rather surprisingly from very joyful and colourful cityscapes to much darker, and mysterious places. What hasn´t changed is my interest in architecture, urban, industrial and derelict places that some would rather avoid. These places, structures and machines that I like to paint may not be in operation anymore yet they are endowed with very special atmosphere and spirit – a strong energy that is left.
 
 
Escape, oil on canvas, 70 x 90 cm
 
My paintings are oscillating between reality and my imagination. I call them “unknown landscapes” or “non-places” because you cannot clearly identify them. Where are they? Is it night or is it morning? Is it warm or is it cold? Something is not quite right here and it is difficult to say what it is.  This is what I admire in paintings in general – the ambiguity, obscurity and mystery.
 
 
As for the painting process, my works are usually based on my own photos, sketches, videos and even memories of the real world; however, the final works are never simple copies of my reference images. Quite the opposite, they have a very different feeling and an almost dream-like quality to them. I never know what the final painting will look like and that is also what I enjoy. I start with one idea but as I progress with the painting I come up with more thoughts, which I try to incorporate.  Thus the final piece is a combination of my fantasy, my interest in the mystery, “the unknown” and my reference images.
 
 
Garbage, oil on canvas, 60 x 80 cm
Although my focus is on the half-real half-imagined scenes, I began experimenting with semi-abstraction. Thus in my portfolio you can see paintings like Garbage, Fragments and New Beginnings. In spite of the fact that they may vary in subject matter, they each have one thing in common –  it is always something very complex and chaotic such as ruins or even a dump. The more complicated the scene, the better in this case. But rather than painting every single detail, I am interested in the variety of shapes, colours and how the materiality of paint can evoke a texture of the chosen object.
 
 
Isolation, oil on canvas, 70 x  90 cm

Lorrie Anne Minicozzi, Graphite Artist, Tells Her Story

My artistic story begins the day I was able to pick up a pencil.  Even at a young age I was fortunate to have inherent dexterity and any painting tool or drawing instrument felt natural cradled in my left hand. I attended SUNY Potsdam for two years and transferred to SUNY Stony Brook. I felt the need to get all of my core requirements done in the early years of college – leaving all of my art classes for the end.
In my senior year at Stony Brook I went to see my art advisor for help with my final year’s course load (I needed extra time since I transferred and had a ton of art to make up). He drew a deep breath and told me that based on the doodles on the back of my notebook, that I should rethink my art career. I did. I quit Stony Brook that year. This is my biggest regret – yet strongest inspiration.
I had learned that I was dyslexic in fourth grade and have since become a pictorial learner. Even though I didn’t have a degree, somehow my visual methodology of learning helped me to impart my knowledge easily. I started teaching graphic design, computer illustration, and ultimately, fine art.
The senseless, heart breaking tragedy of Newtown, Connecticut was the painful catalyst for me to immerse myself back into portraiture. I was haunted by the beautiful faces of these angels and began, through tears, to try to capture their reflection. It was through these faces that I regained my love for art and passion for expression. I received an amazing gift from the ashes of sadness that I will never forget. I have since donated my portraits to the families of Sandy Hook and Arapaho, Colorado shooting victims.
I have recently moved to Pittsburgh from Colorado. I work in my studio daily and am currently doing a series of portraits to raise awareness for the refugee crisis. These renderings are my therapy and creativity is my aspiration. I have learned that I have not learned enough. I strive to grow as an artist and teach others. Though graphite is my favorite medium – I am dabbling with oil paint.  This I find to be a lifelong education. My traditional realism inclination has been greatly influenced by the eminent masters Albrecht Durer, Caravaggio and da Vinci.
My drawings seek to tell a story of the drama and triumph within my subjects and help me to see the world in a different light.  My message is to never, ever, give up your dreams – to never let anyone tell you that you cannot achieve something. The important motivator should be to do art because it feels good, for you. If you stop trying, you stop living.

Lakshmi Mohanbabu, Artist, Architect & Fashion Designer, Tells Her Story

 

Having grown up in Afghanistan seeing all the destruction and chaos, cultivated a keen desire in me to create rather than to destroy, thus started my sojourn of design. I studied architecture at the Manipal Institute of Technology. On completing my degree in Architecture I joined a prominent architectural firm, Benjamin and Benjamin, in New Delhi.
However, I allowed myself to grab any chance that would give me an opportunity to draw, paint, or just create. I got work illustrating books with the World Health Organization, the Voluntary Health Association of India, and the National AIDS Control Organization, to name a few. The subject was very interesting and it gave me an insight into yet another aspect of life. My unconventional approach led me in yet another direction when I decided to study Fashion Design at the National Institute of Fashion Technology in New Delhi, a premier design school and the only one of its kind at the time.
The way I saw it there was no real departure from my training as an architect. Both Architecture and Fashion deal with the design of a protective space — Clothing is the immediate space around us, and Architecture is the bigger space. Paintings and sculpture create focal points in the larger interior, or architectural space, just as jewelry and accessories create areas of focus in Fashion. The fundamentals of designing a painting a sculpture, a building, or furniture deal with an understanding of function, form, structural and material properties. Over the years I was able to connect the dots and delve into all areas of design.
Traveling and interacting with people from across the globe instilled in me a desire to share my worldview with a message that I believe would have a positive impact on people. As an artist, I feel I could spread a message for the betterment of society. Having extensively traveled in Europe and Asia, studying architecture and fashion design I was able to incorporate various cultural aspects into my world of art and design.

 

My experience teaching at NIFT Delhi and Lasalle College of the Arts in Singapore has made me a perpetual student of Art, Architecture, Jewelry and Design for it is my belief that learning never stops. Having traveled the world with significant time especially in Europe and the Asia Pacific has enabled me to incorporate cross-cultural elements, philosophies and interactions in my designs, be it in painting, jewelry or art.
I believe I was born to study the history of art techniques and explore the unexplored reaches of fine art – not restricting myself to painting  – but in the design of jewelry, furniture, sculpture, shoes, building, clothes, etc. and create a new world.

 

Over the last few decades of my journey, I have created a plethora of work in various mediums such as Pen and Ink, Pencil Color, Charcoal, Acrylic, and Watercolors. My paintings and jewelry have been in circulation with private clients for the past few decades. I currently have design studios in both Singapore and India.

Roslyn Zinner, Mosaic Artist, Tells Her Story

 

We were on the way to the airport in the Caribbean island of St. Lucia when I yelled,  “Stop the car! I’ve got to sketch this banana tree!”  Shocking to me, but ordinary to people who have seen bananas before they get to a grocery store, was that they were growing upwards, not downwards, from their stems. That banana tree became a small part of my first mosaic art piece.
Until that time I had worked extensively making wheel-thrown stoneware vessels and dabbled in quilting, stained glass, collage, cabinetry, and fiber, but I had never done any glass mosaics until my St Lucian inspiration. I spent the next twelve months creating a  6’ x 5’ table filled with scenes of the island, including that otherwise ordinary banana tree. Over the course of that endeavor, I fell in love with the ancient and modern fine art of glass mosaic. I became joined with mosaic art and there will never be a divorce!
About to Jump
You might be curious about how my mosaics are made. Once I have sketched the outline of the piece on the desired size plywood, I make decisions about color, type glass or tile, size, flow, etc. I often make a trip to the stained glass store where I buy opaque sheets for cutting into tiny pieces. There I gravitate toward glass that has movement or swirls of color within.  If I’m doing a portrait, I start with the eyes, then the mouth, then the nose and cheeks, neck, etc. The background is always done last.

Frequently I see something that doesn’t look right, and I redo that section, possibly even 6 or 7 times until I am happy. After the entire surface is filled, and a few days drying time, I grout the piece, smooshing the grout over all of it and wiping until all the glass can again be seen and the lines are filled. For “2 Kayaks” I used gravel of varying sizes for the rocky shoreline and stained glass in flat diamond shapes for the water’s reflections.

Two Kayaks

 

I believe this particular medium resonated with me so immediately because it reflects my many years as a masters level social worker, psychotherapist, and divorce mediator. In that professional life, I help people pick up their broken pieces and put them back together to create a new, more satisfying whole. Social workers and mosaic artists share this ability.
Though the process can be labor-intensive and painstaking, I relish the dazzling array of choices that mosaics can offer. Whether it is with stained glass, smalti, ceramic tile or found objects, the small pieces, or tesserae, will vary by color, type, reflectiveness, texture, flow, size, and shape. I can work two-or-three-dimensionally and then alter the piece further with grout lines of varying color. The options are mind-boggling, like a puzzle where you get to create AND fit together the pieces.
Here’s a three-dimensional mosaic portraying me working on a mosaic!
When I was devoting most of my work to mediation, helping divorcing couples work out their parenting plans, I often worried about the people who weren’t in the room, their children. I knew that parental conflict took a toll on them. I processed these emotions with a series of works portraying the feelings of those children. Identity, seen here, is a piece in which I take great pride.
Identity
For my next series, I turned to a more serene question: how do people experience the beauty and mystery of the ocean and the shore?
Private Moment
Young Girl Wading
Becoming the “Grammy” of 2 adorable little boys led me to create pieces showing the wonder that children experience about stuff we hardly notice, like puddles.
Recently during a difficult period in my life, I started to look around for hope in order to stay motivated and positive. I read biographies of people like Nelson Mandela and Harriet Tubman and was moved by people who take risks and work hard to make the world a better place. From there I began my “Heroes” series, which has included portraits of Mandela, Tubman, Rachel Maddow, and Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg, among others.
Nelson Mandela

My portrait of Justice Ginsberg was included in 2015’s Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, which was just re-published as a Young Reader’s Edition in December 2017.  

 

Ruth Bader Ginsberg

Capturing the essence of a person in mosaic is by far the biggest art challenge I’ve encountered, but also possibly the most satisfying. I already knew intellectually that identifying people by “race” is an arbitrary and oppressive way of thinking about people, but portraiture has deepened that understanding. For instance, “black” skin types are made with tiles of tans and oranges, yellows, pinks, reds, and browns, while “white” skin types consist of pinks, tans and oranges, browns, yellows and reds. Here’s an example of what I mean.
Rachel Maddow

I’m currently working on a series of reflections, both literal and metaphoric. I’m kept busy with pet portrait commissions, helping troubled couples put their pieces back together, planning a daughter’s wedding, and trying to get back to the Caribbean for some more first-hand inspiration.
 

 

 

 

 

 

Doug D’souza, Jewelry Designer, Tells His Story

 

My journey as a maker started with first being a breaker. As a child, I was fascinated with technology and had a deep desire to understand how things worked. I would meticulously take my toys apart to satisfy my curiosity, then try to reassemble them. I was mostly successful and learned early on that my hands could make things.
I was born in Mumbai, India where I experienced cultural and religious diversity, and rich colors and textures that would later influence my work. I moved to the US in 1980 to pursue my education and career in engineering mechanics.
After graduation I started working for BMW, a job I enjoyed for almost a decade. Then one seemingly ordinary day, a high speed rear collision changed the course of my life, and at the same time turned on a creative light that has shone bright ever since. 
After the accident, I could no longer physically do the work so I set out to nurture my creative side with a course in Graphic Design. This led to an internship in a local studio where I learned how to etch and carve glass. I created edge-lit sculptures, lamps and room dividers using hand-fabricated copper to frame the glass. Unfortunately once again, another accident would change my direction. A back injury during an installation forced me to shrink my canvas to a more manageable size.
I was always drawn to metal. Already familiar with copper, I learned jewelry metal smithing through books and video tutorials. It all seemed to come quite naturally to me. The process of designing, sawing, shaping and soldering metal is very meditative by nature. I spent hours sitting at my bench totally in the zone practicing various techniques to achieve my desired results.
Mixed Metal Copper/Silver Resin
I started creating small wearable sculptures as pendants and earrings using copper, silver and pigmented resin. They were hollow forms that were inspired by seed pods. They started out as flat sheets of metal that were textured or embossed using various methods, then shaped using forming tools and pierced with a hand saw. Silver accents were sometimes added to them and back set with pigmented resin over silver leaf, a self-taught technique that I still use today.
Symbols Bracelet
While growing up in India I was exposed to many religions. I was raised Roman Catholic, but my friends were Hindus, Muslims, Parsis, Jains, etc. I was curious about other faiths and always kept an open mind. To me religions were cultural, like ethnic food, and India offered a smorgasbord. They basically all had the same message . . . just be nice, and try to get along. It doesn’t matter what discipline you subscribe to, as long as it makes you a better person.
In that spirit and an interest in numerology, I designed a collection of symbol pieces that evoke messages of love, peace, and tolerance.
Rustic Wedding Bands
Over the years I have received many custom requests, including wedding bands. One particular request was for a men’s mixed metal rustic style wedding band. Since I was already working with mixed metals and I love textures, I combined them to make my first rustic band.
I was quite pleased with the outcome, and began designing a collection of them. These rings are not mass-produced, but are completely hand-fabricated and start with strips of contrasting metals. The lining is sterling silver, and the textured insert is copper, or gold. I have recently started offering copper and bronze with surgical stainless steel linings for those who are sensitive to silver.
The majority of my customers are quite happy with the textures I offer, but some request something more personalized. For example, I received a request from a firefighter who liked the overall look of the ring but wanted flames around the band, and a personalized message engraved inside. I feel truly honored to create something so meaningful that symbolizes the love shared by two people. They are available in custom widths and combinations of non precious and precious metals including rose, yellow and white gold.
Enameled Pendant
What I love about the jewelry industry is how multi-faceted it is. There are so many areas to explore and processes and techniques to learn, that you’re almost guaranteed to find your niche somewhere. About a year and a half ago, I met a talented enamel artist in town. Her beautiful work was inspiring, and I found myself  purchasing her video tutorial, equipment and supplies. I was subsequently off on a journey of fusing glass to metal and discovering the joy and frustration of enamelling. It was challenging, addictive, and very satisfying.
Suddenly my color palette had exploded, and now offered over a hundred and fifty colors of powdered glass to play with. By combining familiar colors that I was exposed to in India, I could now express texture and design in color. Being a metal smith has some advantages. I can cut and shape metal before applying enamel to it, fabricate settings for focal pieces, and compliment them with stones.
All stages in the process of enamelling are exciting, from design to preparation of the metal, applying layers of powdered glass, to watching it melt and fuse. One big lesson learned is that it’s extremely important to write down and follow every step of the process to recreate a specific look. For some of the textured pieces, the techniques I use only give me about seventy-five percent of control over the final outcome, the rest is in the hands of the enamel gods, who can be quite temperamental.
Just a few seconds in time, and a few degrees in temperature can also make a big difference in the result, which can only be seen after it is removed from the kiln and cooled. This can be very exciting and suspenseful . . . perhaps another reason why I’m drawn to enameling.
Carved Inlaid Stone
In my years as a metal smith, I have set many stones in silver, most of them were bezel set. I was playing with the idea of reversing those roles . . . setting metal in stones. That meant carving the stones and inlaying them with metal. I started with a river rock, and a piece of textured brass that I had sawed out in the shape of a splash. I added a small Malachite stone for contrast then carved the rock so the splash fit perfectly. I liked the look and feel of it, but wanted more contrast between the metal and the rock. The next one was carved deeper with the silver splash sitting below the surface of the tear drop shaped Bloodstone, and was accented with a Ruby.
Modern Vintage Ring
I originally designed the Modern Vintage rings in mixed metals of aluminum, and brass, copper or bronze. They were adjustable cuff rings made of a thick gauge (food grade) aluminum, but were extremely lightweight. I also offer them in silver and stainless steel as cuff or closed rings with contrasting metals.
MFA Egyptian Show
It was my honor to participate in the Museum of Fine Arts Egyptian Erotica show in St. Petersburg, Florida. Using an image from a Nineteenth Dynasty Turin Papyrus, I created a bronze and leather adjustable bracelet that was featured on one of the models.
I work out of my home studio in Gulfport, Florida, and sell online through my website and Etsy store.
I should be content with where I am, but there’s currently a new piece of equipment sitting in my studio to cut and shape stones . . . so stay tuned!

Artists Tell Their Stories List of Artists for 2017

IN
 
ARTISTS TELL THEIR STORIES
IS
PLEASED TO INTRODUCE ITS 52 ARTISTS FOR 2017!
January
 

Katey Ladika
Photography & Digital Media
January 11th

 

Lakshmi Mohanbabu
Multi-Media Interactive Installations
January 18th


 
Patrick Smith
Paintings
January 25th

February

 
Martina Sestakova
Photography & Textiles
February 1st

 
Anita Wexler
Paintings
February 8th

 
Petra Terslova
Oil Paintings
February 15th

Belgin Bozsahin
Ceramics
February 22nd
March


 
Ann Dunbar
Mixed Media
March 1st

  
 
Richard Morris
Writer & Book Author
March 8th

 
Jennifer Thomson
Veil Painting
March 15th

 
Alan Binstock
Sculptor
March 22nd


 
Wayne Wright
Musician
March 29th
April

 
Padma Prasad
Writer, Painter & Poet
April 5th

  

Jim Copening
Chef
April 12th

  
 
Antoine Hunter
Dancer
April 19th

Jen Rouse
Poet
April 26th
May

Marcos Smyth
Visual Artist
May 3rd

 
Cornell Kinderknecht
Musician
May 10th
 
Ahmed Ibrahim
Mosaics
May 17th


 
Jeffrey MacMillan
Photography
May 24th

Lorrie Anne Minicozzi
Traditional Paintings
May 31st

June
 
Lisa Bick
Encaustic Mixed Media
June 7th

  
 
Jim Pastor
Musician
June 14th

Veronica Szalus
Industrial Design Sculptor
June 21st

Hilde Lambrechts
Sculptor
June 28th

July
 
Doug D’Souza
Jewelry Designer
July 5th

Nikki Serra
Ceramics
July 12th

 
Bonnie Brown
Hoop Dancing
July 19th

 
Gale Fulton Ross
Paintings
July 26th


August

Julian Douglas
Musician
August 2nd

 
Ellyn Weiss
Encaustics
August 9th

Sara Thee Campagna
Primary Robot Creator
August 16th

  

Robin Antar
Stone Carving
August 23rd
  

Jamie Kirkell
Silk Painting
August 30th

September

Heather Williams
Drawing
September 6th
 
Jennifer Jones
Storyteller
September 13th

 
Patricia Zannie
Mixed Media Collages
September 20th


 
Charles Gushue
Dancer
September 27th


October
  

Carole Stevens Bibisi
Colored Pencils
October 4th

Susan Slack
Author, Musician & Dancer
October 11th

 
Lauren Rader
Paintings
October 18th
  

Solomon Asfawbeka
Paintings
October 25th

November

 
Gaetano Cannata
Chef
November 1st

 
Gila Rayberg
Mosaics
November 8th

Sheri Nadelman
Musician
November 15th
  

Patrice Kennedy
Writer, Illustration & Healing Arts
November 22nd

Cynthia Farrell Johnson
Book Illustrations & Paintings
November 29th

December

 
Kim Reyes
Body Painting & Makeup
December 6th

 
Aklilu Temesgen
Paintings
December 13th

 
Roslyn Zinner
Mosaics
December 20th

 
Hiep Nguyen
Circle Painting
December 27th

2016 Artists Intros: 52 Artists in 52 Weeks

ARTISTS
IN

 
WEEKS
Artists Tell Their Stories is Pleased to Introduce thE 52 Artists for 2016:
January

Ivory Haze
Singer/Songwriter
January 13th
  
 
                                              

Elizabeth St. Hilaire
Mixed Media
January 20th

                 
Warren Brown
Cake Artisan
January 27th
February
Deb Lombard
Dancer & Teaching Artist
February 3rd
                                

Catherine Anderson
Photographer
February 10th
                              

Dwij-David Gittens
Artist, Designer & Videographer
February 17th
                            


Maria Saracino
Figurative Sculpture
February 24th
March
Ana Cavalcanti
Potter
March 2nd
                                

Carol Wiebe
Collage
March 9th
                             

Susan Scheid
Poet
March 16th
                                                               

Michael Beard
Painter
March 23rd
                                   

Michael Manthey
Jewelry
March 30th
April
                 

Blair Anderson
 Jewelry
April 6th
                                   

Kelly Atkins
Dancer
April 13th
                                

Helen Nock
Stone Sculptor
April 20th

                                     
Heather Schmaedeke
Photographer
April 27th
May
                                        


Margie Boynton
Painter
May 4th
                                           

Lori Kiplinger Pandy
Ceramic Sculpture
May 11th
                                                    

Raven Skye McDonough
Collage
May 18th
                                                                                   

Stephanie Heidemann
Authentic Voice
May 25th
June
                                   

Haifa Bint-Kadi
Mosaics
June 1st
                                    

Nancy Curry
Paper & Mixed Media
June 8th
                                      


Mei Mei Chang
Mixed Media
June 15th
                                                                 

Shiloh Gastello
Pottery
June 22nd
                                                               

Donna Wallace
Ceramic Jewelry
June 29th
July
                                        

Krista Bjorn
Woodburning
July 6th
                                        

Noa Baum
Storyteller
July 13th
                                     

Nancy Rhodes Harper
Painter
July 20th
                                    


Kristin Reese Williams
Mixed Media
July 27th
August
                                             

Charles Andrade
Lazure & Murals
August 3rd
                                   

Susan Carlson
Quilter
August 10th
                                                                     

Dwayne Scheuneman
Dancer
August 17th
                                         

Kuniko Yamamato
Theatrical Performance
August 24th
                                                     

Gina Elliot Proulx
Photographer
August 31st
September
                                      
Ivy Newport
Mixed Media Artist & Teacher
September 7th
                      
                                        

Eileen P. Goldenberg
Encaustics
September 14th
                                                                   

Walt Bartman
Painter & Teacher
September 21st
                                          

Robert Lighthouse
Singer/Songwriter
September 28th
October
                    

Francie Hester
Painter
October 5th
                                         

Laura-Leigh Palmer
Graphic Designer/Art Professor
October 12th
                                                     

Judith Black Horn
Photographer
October 19th
                                   

Silvia Engel-Suarez
Jewelry
October 26th
November
Karen Arango
Photographer
November 2nd
                                                        

Kristen Arant
Drummer & Teacher
November 9th

                                     
Sharon Leon
Mixed Media
November 16th
                          
                             

Kim Downes
Shaman/Aromatherapist
November 23rd
                    

Marcie Wolf-Hubbard
Mixed Media
November 30th
December
                

Priscilla Vail
Singer/Songwriter
December 7th
                                                     

Tom Sawyer
Graphic Designer
December 14th
                                

Cedric Hameed
Spoken Word
December 21st
                                

Isidora Paz Lopez
Mosaics
December 28th

Silvia Engel, Glass Jewelry & Mixed Media Artist, Tells Her Story

 
To many people, “tradition” is a word that means looking back to how things once were, but to me, as an artist and jewelry maker, tradition is what drives me forward. In my fused glass and jewelry artworks, as well as alcohol ink paintings and textured mixed media tiles, I incorporate my understanding of tradition through color and texture, while using innovative techniques to further explore what those traditions mean to me.
Art is what keeps me balanced and tuned, and everywhere I go and everything I do revolves around art, whether I’m enjoying a color pattern or texture or spending a day in my studio.
 
 
Sunflower – Alcohol Ink Painting
I come from a family of artists — musicians, painters, potters, and singers. It makes sense that art and the process of creative expression were always around me as a child.
My native Mexico is also one of the greatest influences for how I design, color, and texture my fused glass jewelry. The beaches and the sea, as well as the colors, sounds, people, and energy of my Mexican home, were always changing and never the same from one day to the next. This has influenced the way I create and handcraft my jewelry and my art, and I love creating one-of-a-kind works.
Although I create different lines of similar jewelry based on themes, no two of my pieces are the same, and this means that every owner of my jewelry is the owner of a piece made just for them. There’s no better feeling than that connection between the artist and a person.
 
 
Love Ashes Butterfly
When I came to the United States 26 years ago, I brought my culture with me, and about 15 years ago, I started translating that culture and tradition into glass jewelry. The process of fusing glass intrigued me so much, and from the fun to the sense of fulfillment, I just knew it was my calling.
 
 
Red Heart Love Ashes
I currently specialize in fused glass cremation jewelry (that’s glass jewelry and memorials that have the cremated ashes or hair of a loved one or a pet fused into the actual work of art). And it’s the most fulfilling, yet challenging, way that I can use my art to connect with other people. What inspires me most is the letters and thank-you notes I get from grieving families, who say that wearing my jewelry has helped them feel close to passed loved ones. My company, Love Ashes, gives me a deep passion for glass fusing as well as motivation to continue evolving and enjoying my artistic process every day.
 
 
Hanging Fish – fused glass
Today, I find myself continually inspired by random things. It could be a pretty color combination or the way the sky looks. Sometimes I’m inspired by a tile at a restaurant or a song on the radio. My studio is, by most people’s standards, probably a bit messy. But I know where everything is; it’s my sanctuary and where I find the most peace. I never sketch my work, instead, I take a more stream-of-consciousness approach to the design. Once I begin cutting the glass, the idea for the jewelry, its combination of colors, and its design come to my mind. Since I also dream of designs, I keep paper and pencil on my nightstand.
 
 
To the Moon and Back – alcohol ink painting and mixed media
Although every day brings new challenges, I couldn’t be happier. Creating art, making jewelry that helps other people, and growing in my artistic process and creative expression are all part of this wonderful way that I get to spend my days and make an impact on others. In the future, I want to continue finding new partnerships for my cremation jewelry. Recently, I developed a big interest in mixed media work that incorporates alcohol inks as well as fused glass and calligraphy, to create beautiful painted tiles. I hope to feature my mixed media works in more galleries, and one day I’d like to do a solo exhibit.
 
 
Love Is – alcohol ink painting and fused glass

Joe Ganech, Digital Artist, Tells His Story

 

 

I am a digital artist, born in Spain and grew up in Belgium. I spent my first 4 years living with my paternal grandmother in Spain because my parents, like thousands of Spaniards of that time, decided to leave Spain for better days in the north of Europe where there was no military dictatorship. When my parents found work in Belgium, my grandmother brought me over to join them.
Icon #5
I did all my studies in Brussels, from primary school to middle school. I have always loved art and since I was a child I loved drawing and inventing universes. Maybe the fact of being an only child opened the door for creativity to fill long afternoons. Fortunately I had a lot of friends and the balance between introspection and sociability is still part of my way of life today.
I did not have formal training in art; I learned how to make digital creations by painstakingly teaching myself different types of software. Through many hours of watching YouTube tutorials and reading articles it has now evolved into a wonderful passion. Of course this did not happen overnight, I spent every day trying to understand others, to see how they were doing processes in order to progress without giving up. Art, for me, is personal. When I present a drawing or painting to the public, it’s like unveiling a child’s treasure which has been kept secret for a long time.
I have loved ‘Art’ since boyhood, and I have no favorite artist or style. I think all artists have their visions and their own universes … and every artistic visions forms an artist’s unique and magical whole. What interests me above all, is how my thinking has expanded with the methods I discover and then incorporate into my artistic practice.
Very often, before starting a new piece of work, inspiration comes to me in visions and voices directing me to paint like this way or that way. I know it seems strange but that’s how it works. I am not a medium or magician. I seem to be an instrument, with the media as my musical score and the resulting artwork being the performance.

My creations are therefore like messages that each viewer perceives according to their personal experiences and feelings. The greatest joy for me is when I have the opportunity to meet the public and hear their opinions and their personal interpretations of the images. Feedback is always important to me as it is with every artist. So my work is never complete … as the audience continues with their comments and reactions.”

 

Martina Sestakova, Textile Artist, Tells Her Story

 

My creative process is a matter of intuition. I am not sure how to capture it with words but I know when a textile pattern is done and when it is not. There is this feeling that guides me as my hand slides over canvas when I paint or as I take photos of textures, patterns, and colors. Painting and photography are the two main sources of inspiration for my fabrics.
My journey to becoming a textile designer is one of many twists and turns. Originally from Prague, Czech Republic, I now reside in Rockville, Maryland. My educational background may not suggest a direct link to my passion for patterns: I got my degree in intercultural communication and worked in healthcare marketing for about 9 years. The time behind a computer screen was productive, yet often lacked the creativity that I believe resides in my heart and mind. I went back to school and am currently earning a degree in fashion design. You know how they say one class can change the trajectory of your career? Well, I took a textile design class that did just that. So, here I am today running my company RADOST (which is the Czech word for joy) designing fabrics that I turn into fashion accessories, such as scarves, or home décor items, such as throw pillows.

 

Textiles tell stories. They tell stories of their creators, of feelings, of places. While I love painting and photography as media of creative expression, I just adore the added complexity of textiles. There is something magical about digital artwork printed on fabric. Fabric has a mind of its own in how it drapes, how it wraps around a human body, how it folds on itself. This is why I create, for instance, scarves. They wrap around a person’s neck and act as pieces or art, as jewelry. Every time they are styled with an outfit, they are different and that’s the continued story I wish to convey with my designs: the endless joyous possibilities.

 

 

I am totally fascinated with the world around me. Nature is the perfect artist as it provides breathtaking color and texture combinations, ones I could not come up with myself. My goal is to have my eyes always open. The creative process is intuitive; yet sometimes it takes minutes, sometimes it takes weeks. I may snap a photo and continually think about it for weeks. I may redraw it in water color, or I may just take a color or two out of it as inspiration for an abstract painting. Or, I may sit down and draw with an unconventional medium (glue, kitchen salt) and shortly after, I have a collection of textiles that express the precious moment of creativity and inspiration. It seems that most ideas come to me when I am outside, on a walk, looking up at the sun, or taking sight of an interesting detail.

The complexity of textiles has two aspects I consistently study in my work: its fluidity and its static nature. The fluidity is reflected in my scarf collections. The static nature is an aspect of my pillow collections. While scarves taken on new shapes as they are styled, pillows pose an intriguing challenge. How does one design a dynamic textile on a square that does not change and that won’t move? A few years ago, I watched a TED Talk by Emma Rogan. She talks about a 100 Days Project in which daily we conduct a similar task to really tap into our creativity and its possibilities. This idea is with me constantly, and that is how I approach pillow design. I view the square as an invitation, as a blank canvas I can fill up with joy and a fresh point of view. The shape of the pillow does not limit me; it guides me. I tend to stick to nature for inspiration in terms of shapes and textures. I play around with colors, as I believe those can tremendously affect how one may feel about the design. As with my other textile design work, there are endless joyous possibilities.

 

Since delving into textile design, I have met incredible artists and learned tons about the creative community. I find that people from all kinds of fields can easily become best friends because of their love for color or another creative element. I listen and I learn, and it’s been a rather exciting journey. As an artisan featured at the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, D.C., I am both humbled by the world out there and incredibly excited about my future work.
                         
 
 

Susan Scheid, Poet & Literary Activist, Tells Her Story

Zoon, Zoon, Cuddle and Croon

 

Poetry has shaped most of my life.  My father read poetry to me instead of bedtime stories. It was the music of the language, the playfulness, and the places those poems took me that have remained with me. Even now, I hear my dad reciting the first stanza of “Moon Song” every time I see a full moon that lights my yard and the open sky.
 
Zoon, zoon, cuddle and croon­
Over the crinkling sea,
The moon man flings him a silvered net
Fashioned of moonbeams three.
My love of alliteration and the rhythm of language had to come from “The Baby Goes to Boston”
 
What does the train say?
 Jiggle joggle, jiggle joggle!
What does the train say?
Jiggle joggle jee!
Will the little baby go
Riding with the locomo?
Loky moky poky stoky
Smoky choky chee!
The message of James Whitcomb Riley’s “Little Orphant Annie” (inscribed to “all the little children . . . The good ones—Yes, the good ones, too; and all the lovely bad ones) certainly kept me and my siblings in line with its repeating refrain:
An’ the Gobble-uns‘ll git you
ef you
Don’t
Watch
Out!
I was certain that the long-fingered shadows of tree limbs on my bedroom walls at night were the goblins watching me to see if I behaved!

 

Ink Runs from the Corners of My Mouth
Writing is a solitary activity.  You spend hours and hours alone for the most part, trying to perfect on paper an idea in your head.  You arrange and re-arrange words on paper that will paint a certain picture or evoke a certain feeling for the reader.  Sometimes that arrangement is a complicated mixture of repeating lines and rhyme schemes.  Other times you may include allusions to other poets or poems and then hope that the reader understands it.  All this work to be published in a literary journal, an online journal, to read at an open mic, hoping that one day you will have enough poems for your own book.  Sounds rewarding, doesn’t it?
Line breaks, voice, tone, meter, rhythm, stanza breaks, form, too many adverbs.  These are all the things we think about as we meticulously craft each poem, no matter how short.  Draft after draft.  We pass along marked-up sheets to other poets and ask for comments we often don’t really want.  We sit in writing groups and give each other face-to-face feedback.
The writing does not always come easy but, like a muscle, it has to be flexed.  Writers have tricks to prompt themselves into producing a draft of something for the day, sort of like dancers have warm-up exercises.  I know that some of my better poems have started as writing exercises—like my fairy tale poems that served as the basis for my first book (After Enchantment).

 

I am a poet.  It’s who I am, not a job that I do.  If it’s so hard and solitary then why write?  I write because I can’t not write.  The more I write, the more I open myself to the world.  The more I open myself to the world, the more I am moved by my emotions.  The more I am moved, the more I write.  And so it goes.
Poetry is powerful.  It can transform a personal experience into words that hold meaning for others.  I remember the first time that a stranger came to me after an open mic and asked for a copy of the poem I had just read.  She had tears in her eyes as she explained how my poem helped her understand how her mother’s dementia had affected them both.  She said that she had never considered how the dementia felt for her mother.  My poem had transformed how this stranger viewed her own mother!  At that moment, I felt the power of my words in the world.
The biggest compliment I ever receive is hearing a person say “I never liked/understood poetry until I read your poems.”  The fact that my writing could unlock a new world for someone means more to me than any monetary or literary rewards.
In 2008, I was introduced to the incredible poetry community here in Washington, DC ,through the Split This Rock Poetry Festival.  I had found my people!  A world of poets and poetry of witness opened up to me and I to it.  I discovered that my poems could find a home in the world, have meaning, and possibly inspire others.
Where Everything is Music
Rumi tells us poems come “from a slow and powerful root/that we can’t see.”
I don’t always know where my poems come from.  I have poems that feel like they were poured through me onto paper.  Other poems I worked on for years—writing, re-writing, putting aside, shaping words and phrases just so.
A poet has to write from the heart.  But it is the most vulnerable and, at times, frightening place to open to the world.  Often the work is raw.  You have to be willing to feel exposed to strangers, because even if the piece you write has nothing to do with you personally, there is always a part of you in there.  It is rather like giving birth over and over again.
It’s hard to talk about my work.  In many ways, it’s very personal—even when I am writing about something not related to my own life.  I try to write about what I see and experience, but since I write from my heart I can be inspired by nearly anything—a picture in the newspaper (“The Painted Lady”), a story on the radio (“A Typical Day”) or the title of a cartoon (“Coffee with Jesus”).  I wrote the following poem after my youngest son lied to me.  Now I can’t even remember the lie, just the anger and betrayal I felt.
Prevarication
He looked me in the eye
then he lied to me
his lips never sneered
eyes never flashed.
But he lied.
Then I could see it –
the lie – just beneath
his skin, moving around,
as if it were some parasite
burrowing, becoming part of him.
And when he smiled
it almost disappeared.
When he said I love you
all I could hear was the lie,
chewing away inside him,
burrowing deeper.

 

 

Prevarication, watercolor by E.A. “Skeeter” Scheid
I am also attracted to the odd piece or the twist in the story.  I have a sarcastic streak that is a mile wide, thanks to my parents.  In my version of Sleeping Beauty, I try to use that twist and come out with a poem where, after she awakens, the princess has insomnia.
Sleeping Beauty
Every night the prince calls out to me
to return to bed and his dreams.
Insomnia is my friend now.
I have no use for sleep these days.
For those who criticize, I say
let me wander with Death
atop the walls of the night,
for only in that darkness
do I truly feel awake.

 

Sleeping Beauty, watercolor by E.A. “Skeeter” Scheid
My friends often suggest “you should write a poem about that,” usually at absurd moments in life.  It’s easier said than done.  While I am drawn to the absurd and comical, using humor well is more difficult than it appears.  But sometimes it works.
Snow White’s Math Problem
If seven dwarves each own
seven shirts, seven pairs of socks,
seven pairs of pants, and
seven pairs of boxers,
then how much money does
Snow White have to pay
for laundry, so she
can hang out in the forest
with friends, smoking
and reading cheap magazines?

 

Snow White, watercolor by E.A. “Skeeter” Scheid

 

When I write, I seek truth, spirituality, a sense of connectedness to other people and the universe.  I try to have compassion for and to deepen my (and my reader’s) understanding of other people’s lives.  In writing poems of witness, writing from someone else’s eyes or point of view is one way to deepen that compassion.  When Treyvon Martin, and later, Michael Brown were shot, I thought about their mothers.  I was the mother of two teenaged sons and I tried to imagine how I would feel if either of them had been shot under similar circumstances.  It led me to write this poem, in the style of a poem entitled “Otherwise” by Jane Kenyon.
My Otherwise
 (after Jane Kenyon)
I awoke today
with two strong boys.
It might have been
otherwise.  I kissed
their cheeks, pale
young, innocent
male.  It might
have been otherwise.
They walked through the park
and home again safely.
All day long I lived without
fear for the ones I love.
For lunch we made grilled
cheese sandwiches. It might
have been otherwise.
We ate dinner together
at a table with paper
napkins.  It might
have been otherwise.
The boys slept in beds
in a room with painted walls
and planned other days
just like this day.
And I prayed in the dark
because I know,
there are other mothers
with boys for whom
every day is otherwise.
Like the poem above, I also write social justice or so-called “political” poems.  I do so in order to stand in solidarity, to write a poem of witness, to give a voice to people who are suffering in the world.  But I do not consider myself exclusively a political poet.  Likewise, I consider myself a feminist, although I would not categorize myself as a feminist writer.  I realize, though, that characters in my poems frequently speak as ardent feminists.  In a series I am writing about Eve, I describe her true birth happening the moment when she makes a decision for herself.  In this poem, Eve decides to leave Adam (and the Garden) and live independently.
Eve Takes Her Leave of Adam
All of this I would have gladly accepted—
the loss, the pain, my mortality.
If only you had acknowledged me.
All this journey, this search
for paradise, there was only ever
one decision, one opinion—
yours.
You thought I was yours too.
Fashioned from your rib,
I was a vessel
made of bone and sinew.
But I was empty,
until the storms came
and blew me into the world.
I am a woman.
Now, I need to travel the earth.
Feel the power at my edges,
the calm at my center.
You will know where I am
by the smell of rain in the air,
the mud caressing your feet.
There’s No Place Like Home
It’s hard to sum up artistic endeavors and a lifetime of work in only a few pages.  The more I live in this world, the more I come to realize that I had a “magical” childhood, sheltered from the dark side of life.  At first, I was angry with my parents about that protection.  Now I am grateful.  I know it was an act of love on their part to put me in such a position.  It has allowed me to find the good, the genuine, the kindness in life and then to write about it so others can find it too.

 

Poetry speaks to the heart.  It connects us to each other.  There is so much pain in the world, sometimes we have to stand for beauty and compassion.  So I’ll end here, as I often end my readings, with this necessary poem.
Buddha
Buddha said
Un-attach.
When suffering comes
touch the earth
connect
to the root of all roots.
And when suffering finds you
be not the archer
nor the arrow.
Be the air
which parts
and re-unites.
Only air understands
this movement

and forgiveness.  

Laurel True, World-Traveling Mosaic Artist, Tells Her Story

I’ve been an artist my entire life. I was born in 1968 in Ann Arbor, Michigan; my ancestry is French and Irish. I grew up near Chicago. I was a very creative kid and felt very out of place in my suburban hometown. At an early age I began educating myself about other cultures and places. I enrolled in fashion school in New York, visited Europe on a school trip and fundraised for and participated in community service projects in West Africa as a teenager.
 
I went to University and studied African art and textiles and fashion design. I did not want to go to art school for some reason, preferring to learn through experimentation and apprenticeships.


Paradise, Laurel True 2010,San Francisco, Photo: Russ Osterweil
I found my way to working with mosaics 25 years ago though a magical door in Philadelphia. On the other side of that cosmic door was artist Isaiah Zagar, who became my beloved mentor and taught me “everything he knew”… and I never turned back.
 
 
When I worked with Isaiah, we worked on very large projects, on scaffolding, on the street and in public places. One of the many things I learned from Isaiah was a no-fear approach to mosaic making. We covered a lot of space in short periods of time and I took that efficiency and speed into my own practice … along with the use of lots of mirror.
 
 
I continued to create architectural projects over the next two decades, starting my own company, True Mosaics Studio. Through my studio I created architectural mosaics for public, commercial and residential spaces. I also made smaller-scale work I showed in solo and group exhibits. I started teaching mosaic techniques in 1993 in Madison, Wisconsin and have been teaching and lecturing ever since, which I love. I am so proud of my students and mentees and feel so great when I see what they create in the world.


Black Necked Swan, Laurel True 2014, Urban Mosaic Intervention, Chile
Travel has always been in my blood, and any chance I could go, I went. I figured out how to combine travel, teaching and making art, and that makes up a significant part of my life. I have facilitated projects all over the US, in East and West Africa, Europe, Latin America and Haiti. I was based in the Bay Area for 15 years, where I created a large body of public work.
 
 
In 2004 I was at a crossroads, trying to decide if I should move to New Orleans, a city I had fallen in love with and where I was already teaching and visiting often, or opening a mosaic school in Oakland. My teaching practice had grown so much that I was outgrowing my studio, and bringing in other instructors to offer workshops on the weekends when I wasn’t teaching. 
 
 
In January of 2005 I co-founded the Institute of Mosaic Art (IMA) with one of my best friends and fellow renegades and we made the move from my studio to a giant, blighted building down the street, which we tricked out with tons of paint and mosaics with the help of many, many amazing people. It was like a giant community project.
 
IMA officially opened its doors in June of 2005 with three classrooms, two exhibition spaces, a retail store, library and urban sculpture garden and this became a giant, important part of my life for the next 5 years.  It was a massive amount of work but it provided a much-needed space for the growing mosaic community and was the first-of-its-kind mosaic education and resource center in the US. 
 
 
 
Mosaic art was gaining popularity and IMA was an important hub for many artists and enthusiasts as well as a springboard for community development in the Jingletown neighborhood where we were located.
 
 
We had students and visitors coming from all parts of the globe. We opened on less than a shoestring, but we had tons of “creative capital” and we used it. I had my production studio in the building and continued to create commissioned projects with the help of production assistants and apprentices.
 
 
My business partner and I passed the baton for IMA in 2010, and it was, and continues to be, in good hands with new ownership. IMA now lives in Berkeley, CA and they still offer an amazing array of workshops, classes, resources and exhibits. I love being a Visiting Instructor there.

 

Tropical Flowers Mural, Laurel True / True Mosaics Studio  2011, Mirebalais Hospital, Haiti

 

I had been sharing time between Oakland and New Orleans during the IMA years and after the changing of the guard in 2010 I moved my base of operations to New Orleans, where I live and maintain a studio today.
The year 2010 was also the year of the devastating earthquake in Haiti.
A few months after the earthquake I was connected to a non-profit youth arts organization in Jacmel, Haiti through a colleague. In June of 2010 I walked through another important life portal and found myself deeply involved in community development through art in Haiti, which continues today. I traveled with a friend and former student to the seaside town of Jacmel, which is a cultural and artistic hub in Haiti.
 
We worked with Art Creation Foundation For Children, a wonderful organization offering social services and art education to youth in desperately poor situations. During my first of what was to be many trips, we created a Tree of Life mosaic mural as a memorial to the lives lost in the earthquake.

 

I worked with youth teaching basic mosaic-making processes and then began to help develop their skills in mosaic mural making and professional development training in the arts. These kids have grown into young adults now and as I work alongside them on certain projects, I am filled with an indescribable sense of love and pride. They are simply amazing. They have grown into talented mosaic artists and the city of Jacmel is now covered with more than 30 of their music murals and benches.
Tree of Life and Jacmel Memorial Mosaic Wall, Laurel True with Art Creation Foundation For Children 2010 Assistance by Erin Rogers, Jacmel, Haiti
On the way home from that very first trip to Haiti, my friend and I were bumped up to first class by a flight attendant who knew about the work we had been doing.
Through a stroke of luck – or fate – we sat next to a man who introduced us to Dr. Paul Farmer, co-founder of the public health organization Partners In Health, who was also on our flight. Dr. Farmer invited me to work with PIH in a new hospital they were building in the central valley of Haiti in the town of Mirebalais. Over the next two years I designed and created, with the help of a team of Haitian men I trained and visiting artists from the States, a series of mosaic murals and seating areas for Mirebalais Hospital.
I loved working with Partners In Health, on the construction site and with my amazing team, who I came to love very much.
In 2012 I designed and facilitated the creation of a series of mosaic enhancements and murals that covered the interior of the pediatric ward of the hospital. I worked with school children in Haiti and in the US, basing many of the designs on their drawings, and recruited the help of over 100 of my former students at IMA and colleagues across the country to create elements for the project and assist with the fundraising. I am still involved with PIH and am so proud to have been a part of that project.

 

Students in front of Jacmel Memorial Mosaic Wall, Laurel True with Art Creation Foundation For Children 2011, Jacmel, Haiti

 

I have worked with several other organizations in Haiti, teaching, training and creating mosaic murals with communities. Mosaic has proliferated in Haiti and has garnered international attention. I’m really happy about that. The Huffington Post ran a story about the work of my students from Art Creation Foundation For Children in Jacmel. We were on Nickelodeon News and have been lauded by the Haitian Ministry of Tourism. That is art making a difference. It’s amazing.
I am now the director of the Mosaic Program and Creative Director at Art Creation Foundation For Children. I work mainly on our young entrepreneurs program with older youth, but the organization supports 100 kids from the age of 4-24 with meals, school fees, uniforms, health care and art training. We are constantly struggling to raise funds for these ongoing programs.
 
In conclusion, I feel essentially drawn to do what I do. My life and work are inextricably linked, woven together with threads that come from a very deep place of cosmic connection.
I feel very comfortable traveling, teaching, and working with communities to create art. I feel like I am doing what I was born to do. I love to be witness to the well-being that can arise in the midst of great hardship and adversity through the practice of creative expression and making.
Lotus Bench, Laurel True 2015, New Orleans
The world needs art. It is essential, and it is for everyone. People can feel so disconnected from art and creative expression. Both have become marginalized or seen as exclusive in many cultures … art being reserved for private audiences or creative expression being only for selected individuals.
I feel called to help people un-learn this.
 
I want to help create accessible public art that people can naturally connect with, something that adds something to their experience, moment or life.
 
I believe in equity and social justice. I believe that well-being and environmental beautification are social justice issues. Witnessing the positive ripple effect of socially engaged art is life affirming and heartening on so many levels.
Let the beauty we love be what we do
-Rumi
 
 

Arturo Ho, Mixed Media Artist, Tells His Story

 

As a working artist, I am blessed to have the freedom to do what I love the most—to be with people and create something special. The opportunity to create, connect, and build relationships with others defines me. Art is a vehicle for making the world a better place. I use art to serve and connect with many communities and strive to bring out the best in them. 

 

 

 

I express myself in all aspects of my life through art. I have made works on paper, murals, mosaics, permanent installations, designs for posters/books, taught classes, collaborated with non-profit organizations, community centers, detention centers, public schools, and individuals. 


My work is not confined to a specific medium because I am open to and inspired by many positive influences and ideas of expression. That is the reason I am excited about art; there are always new possibilities.


Working with youth keeps me informed and relevant. Working with people and communities allows me the opportunity to share my knowledge and embrace new ideas and thoughts. This kind of work excites my creative and expressive side of the art making process.

I am also blessed to be able to make connections and build lasting friendships through the interactions that come with working in a collaborative process. It is through these opportunities that I have been able to focus my energy and passion into developing into the type of artist that I feel most comfortable being.

 


Thank you to all who have given me the opportunity to share my passion of art with you. I feel that every one of us has a truly good side and a special gift to share with the world. We must find a way to spread this gift whether it is through art, music, dance, or other mediums of expression.

 

 

Mollie Jones, Watercolorist, Tells Her Story

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
 
 
 
Rosebowl and Berries, 22 x 28
Watercolor is my medium of choice . . . painting light and reflection and anything red has obviously become my passion in my work. It seems that the more complicated and involved my compositions have become, the more I love to paint. There is a thought that keeps repeating itself in my head and it’s very worth repeating, “paint what you love, and you’ll always love to paint”. I really think it is that I’m proving to myself that I can “still do it”. But let me share the beginning and progression as with so many artists of my generation, life got in the way of my art world at an early age.
When I was four or five, I saw Santa put an easel under the Christmas tree at my grandmother’s house so I’ve always known I was an artist. Santa must have known too. During school days (back in the dark ages), I was the girl who drew the scenes on the blackboard with colored chalk for all the holidays, as was the custom of our time. My loving dad thought artists were somewhat “kooky” so I was not able to have any formal art education during my school years, but I was forever drawing, painting, or doodling with anything that would mark a paper. During my college years I met and married my husband and immediately life started getting in the way of any art aspirations I may have entertained and this continued for the first 15 years of our marriage. We started several companies, one being a pet food company where we shipped product all over the US. But, in the 80’s the recession destroyed many small business, and ours was one.
Somewhat out of desperation, I decided that I could draw (I am a good “drawer”) and produce enough work to attend some street fairs that were common in Texas and sell my work . . . and it worked!! I specialized in pen and ink wildlife of ducks, birds, dogs, cats, deer, anything that caught my fancy and to my delight, my work was very successful. I raised children during the day and drew (with The Eagles, ha ha), at night. I had black and white prints made, hand-colored each print in the limited edition, matted and framed each, and basically hit the road showing in large festivals all over the US.
 
Great Horned Owl, pen/ink, 16 x 20

 

For twenty years, I traveled with the art show circuit and I must say in hindsight, I loved every minute of the travel. Artists are a special bunch of individuals, we all have our likes and talents and personalities, and I was fortunate enough to meet lovely people,  many whom I’m still in contact with today. But, as the advent of the mini mall and art/craft booths grew common, the major art shows declined and I changed my focus to calligraphy (still in the detail mode obviously) and began a new direction. To my delight again, it was a successful move. And, as the years flew by, I was able to educate two children with the gift of degrees from Texas A&M and Ole Miss all from the fruits of the art world that I love.
Fast forward to 2009 when I was fortunate enough to begin my watercolor journey and join a blog on Facebook called Artcolony, which included a good number of major watercolorists in the US. I had begun dabbling in watercolor and had found a family so I worked at my “craft” diligently in order of like souls. When you surround yourself with really talented artists you have the bar raised tremendously to try to stay caught up with my new friends. I found that the color red began showing up in all my paintings and if there was a reflection or glass involved, all the better.
Ritzy Rose, 11  x 15
I was fortunate enough to attend two workshops early on with Joyce Faulknor and Paul Jackson who were marvelous teachers and really explained how you look for certain things in crystal and glass and translate them to paper, and I caught on pretty quickly.
When my work began being accepted into national exhibition competitions, I was further inspired to try to get better and better as with watercolor, you never learn it all. But glass was my passion, followed by silver. And it was actually no work at all, only fun! There were many days that I could paint 10 hours almost straight and being 5′ tall, I stand when I paint. The hours fly by even to this day. Glass became an obsession to find in junk shops and flea markets, or in the case of some gorgeous crystal decanters, a friend’s well stocked bar.
Gin and Friends, 22 x 28
Next came invitations to teach workshops with societies around the country in watercolor, which I found I loved doing, and still do. The idea of sharing some secrets and techniques in painting glass and silver was appealing and it allowed me to travel again
The only negative is the time spent trying to book airline tickets. I was able to check one of my bucket list events off with the acceptance into Splash 18, a coffee table publication of the Best Watercolorists in America, with my “Blue Plate Special Pears” and a new love was found . . . painting old blue and white china. I keep going back to the combination of the reds and blues and fruits and glass and silver. I keep painting what I love.
Summer Pears, 22 x 28
Blue Plate Special Pears, 28 x 36
In the past three years I have been able to attain Signature status with Texas Watercolor Society, Southwestern Watercolor Society, Georgia Watercolor Society, WAS-H of Houston, Wyoming Watercolor Society, and have acceptances in Southern Watercolor Society, Adirondacks of NY, and also Transparent Watercolor Society of America.
I love having goals, it keeps raising the bar and at this particular time in my life. My art has been a true blessing. My newest painting was probably the most fun to paint to date and I was fighting my nemesis . . . green!  It seems that it just gets better and better when joy is involved.
Candlewick and Grapes, 22 x 28
More important to me than anything now is the support from my family and my art world. With the recent loss of my husband of 56 years, I have found a comfort that many will never know and it is solely the world of art that I am able to enjoy and know that I can continue to enjoy until the day I put my #8 Black Silver round brush down. My artist friends will never truly know how important they are in my life personally and how genuinely happy painting and everything that is involved with painting can be. Creative people find joy and beauty in most everything and I find that in art.  Everyone should be so lucky!

Katey Ladika, Photographer & Digital Media Artist, Tells Her Story

 

 

If you hear a photographer describe their work as “My Life Through a Lens” then chances are their images are as clichéas their word choices… I am not one of those photographers. It seems I have a need to create, instead of just a mere desire for it and that has lead me to love the adventure for the artistic phenomenon.
Adventure. Such a simple word, yet it is a huge determining factor in my artistic style. Each day is a personal expedition into the unknown and, frankly, it has led me to new experiences and opportunities that I never felt possible. I spend a ton of time stepping outside of my comfort zone just because it makes me happy to be doing something cool. I like to describe it as a constant need for motion. I believe it was Newton who stated that an object at rest will stay at rest until acted on by an outside force… My art IS my outside force. If I’m not moving or exploring, then I’m not particularly happy. It’s a blessing and a curse all wrapped up into one, but I think this weird enjoyment for the unknown is what has driven me even further into my passion for art and my love of photography.
My art. My art is my life, my passion, and my love. I have spent eight years getting as close to perfect as I possibly could with my work. I know I have a lot to learn in my field still, but I am excited to learn it. Oddly enough, while capturing the image, I do not see my subject matter as clearly as those “cliché photographers” I have mentioned above. Instead, when I put my face up to the viewfinder, I see the world as a mass of color and shapes. I use the abstracted image in my head to create my composition.
Though I may abstract an image in my own eyes, each of my photographs is done in an extremely strict fashion. I have my own “set of rules” for my photography that I always follow. As I have come to create my own personal style, I have determined the “Dos and Don’ts”for my artwork: Do add visual dynamics through shadows, don’t have motion blur. Do allow yourself to have complete artistic freedom in your design style, don’t rely on Pinterest for all your ideas. Do monitor all aspects of color in your image, don’t forget about the classic loveliness of a successful black and white photograph. As you can see, it is easy to say that I am stricter toward my photography than most aspects of my life, but a strict photographic style is a large part of my tale.
How I edit certain pieces of my work is also a very important key in my artistic portfolio. I can spend hours upon hours dabbling in Photoshop just because it is something I enjoy. For that reason, (and the fact that I also create works of graphic design, desktop publishing, and videography), I tack on the title of Digital Media Artist as well.
Eight years have gone by since I first picked up a camera. Some would say, “Well, what is eight years — barely a decade, wars have lasted longer than that.”, but if we take the time to look at where I was when I started my photographic journey, a mere child with an eye for the more artistic aspects of life, then it may be stranger than assumed.
On a family vacation to the Outer Banks in North Carolina, I found myself annoyed with the average beach surroundings. A wave here, a palm tree there, and a group of 16 people who were perfectly content with simply parking their behinds in the sand and staring at the sea foam. As I attempted to keep sane in the overwhelming heaps of boredom, I took my mother’s Point-and-Shoot camera from her purse. A few hours later, my family was in complete awe at what I had captured. At the time, I was just eleven years old, but apparently I was using a camera like a seasoned veteran. I will be blunt in saying, eleven year old me didn’t particularly care what my elder counterparts were saying, but when twelve year old me was given a camera for her birthday, my life changed for the better.
Growing up with an above average artistic talent was a strange occurrence. Throughout middle school I seemed to be coddled by teachers who thought it was “cute” that I wanted to be an artist, all the while they were trying to push me to try for a “real career”. Of course, the stubborn child I was never diverged from my path and continued to learn the photographic trade. In high school, I met a whole different perspective on my love and creation of art.
(Now, I won’t say that I am good at photography. I will say that I like what I create and I am proud of it… and that my images have also left me with 180+ art awards to my name, but, as with most things, some will love it while others will hate it.)
From an art teacher who refused to help me accomplish my dreams (actually telling me to stop entering my work into galleries and such because I should “Leave it for someone else”) to people who actually were angry that I allowed myself to fully embrace my passion, I can’t say that my life as an artist has been a walk in the park. Actually, there have been a great deal of hurdles I had to overcome before I was able to really allow myself to embrace the art world, but it is because of those hurdles that I have such a high level of respect for all artists in the industry and for the creation of all forms of art, in general.

 

After teaching myself for five years, I was given a full scholarship from Scholastic, Inc. to study Fashion & Commercial Photography at Maine Media Workshops and College in Camden, Maine in the summer of my Junior Year of high school. I spent the summer gaining a better understanding of the aspects of portraiture and I found that, hey, I was actually pretty good at it. Prior to that summer, I was a self-deemed “Nature Photographer”, but through my time at Maine Media I was able to find my true niche in the realm of Portrait Photography. It is sometimes odd to me to think that I had found something so incredibly important to me at such a young age and that I actually was successful at it, but I know that I am truly blessed with this ability.
So, with an eye for design and a passion for creativity, I first held my camera at the age of twelve. Nearly eight years later and a hefty amount of time spent behind the lens, my photographs have taken on a personality of their own. Mixing my knowledge of fashion photography and the strict ethical codes of photojournalism, I have left myself with the ability to capture moments like no other!
Currently, I reside in the beautiful mountains of the Alleghenies (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to be exact!) where I am completing coursework for the prestigious Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from Robert Morris University. I hold the Assistant Photographer position at RMU Sentry Media and am the Photo Intern for Pittsburgh City Paper. My work has been showcased all of the United States and abroad, including cities such as NYC, Washington D.C, Paris, and London!
Finally, I find a vast importance to add a thank you to those who have helped me become an artist. The first being God, as he has blessed me with this gift and this understanding of the visual world and I am so thankful he has directed me thus far. Second, I must thank my amazing family. My mother, brother, father, and grandparents are always there to help me when I fail or assist me in the purchase of a new camera. They are my rock. Third, I must also give a huge shout out to my friends who are all amazing models and amazing inspirations. Thank you all. You make my world a little more colorful!

Anita Parker, Raw Foods Chef & Nature Photographer, Tells Her Story

 

I became certified as a personal vegan raw food chef, as a way to be of service to the people in my community. Having lived a mostly vegetarian, holistic lifestyle for the past ten years, base, I committed to making choices for myself that would be in the highest consciousness, in all areas of my life. I studied at the Graff Academy of Raw Food Education in Roswell, Georgia and became a raw food chef in order to empower others to make choices to thrive on. I actually teach people how to make Kombucha that tastes good!

 

My decision was inspired by many people inquiring about my lifestyle, energy level, what I do, and how I do it so, Food To Thrive On, was born with a mission to educate people on how to have a dynamic, strong immune system.

 

I’m delighted to have the opportunity to teach our community members how to prepare antioxidant, anti-inflammatory food as well as other delicious medicinal foods.  I have dreams of traveling and offering workshops and retreats throughout the country so If you are interested in getting a group together and hosting me, please contact me through my website.

 

In addition to raw food workshops, I am a total nature lover. I spend every free moment capturing sunsets at Sarasota’s beach, photographing stunning birds and soaking up all that Florida’s sultry climate has to offer. Like most artists, I do other creative things to make ends meet such as hanging wallpaper for some cool companies.

 

Here’s to your vibrant health and happiness!

Dwij Will, aka David Gittens, Inventor & Musician, Tells His Story






Inspiration, focus, and visioning clearly have been the foundation and stepping stones on my creative walkabout . . . so ‘tis fun to reflect on the journey.

 

 

In this moment, traversing the whirl of an elder, my creative canvas explores the calling of music . . . a calling to this neophyte that is soulful and has no defined goal other than the nurturing and deep felt gift of its own unfolding journey. My brief introduction to classical Indian music at the Ali Akbar College of Music inspired me, some years later, to create Dwijveena (shown above), a 23-string fretless guitar strung like a sarode, as a vehicle for meditation and relaxation. I am deeply grateful when its enchanting resonance awakens in me, when I learn that its voice touches others, and when my playing merges with the voices/instruments of other creators. My joy and truth is that there is a depth in this unfolding musical canvas that echoes of a soulful center and homecoming.

 

My earliest recollection of a creative awareness, or an initiation into a world of amazing depth and mystery, was that familiar and welcoming vista called daydreaming. For me, this domain was a rich and infinite realm of imagery and imagination, stories and music with beings and creatures that were guides into a magical world far beyond the boundaries of our Brooklyn, New York neighborhood. It was a world that was enhanced by the stories coming from the big Philco upright radio that our family gathered around every Sunday after dinner; rhythmic Caribbean music from the crank-to-play Victrola, my first books, which had mostly monotone images, or from exploring the fascinating worlds that one could experience when visiting the great New York City museums we frequented.

 

However, daydreaming was harshly frowned upon and in a sense it set in me the foundation for an ongoing confrontation with the world of defined structure, rules, and pre-conditioned limitations that dulled my spirit with boredom and suppressed the imagination. This daydream gift connected me to realms of wonder, information, communication, and possibilities that grew to be my source of “universal attunement”—my definition for an evolving construct that links past and future in this moment—a fulcrum in my maturing process that I’ll simply refer to as soulful . . . in a spiritual and not in a religious construct. The greatest gift of radio, for me, was that it had “no cultural face”; I could imagine self in any of the characters whose accomplishments were inspiring, heroic, and future-linked.




Mataji: Watercolor, brush and airbrush, 16×20 reproduction

 

Our Brooklyn neighborhood was safe enough in the late 1940s that my best friend Peter Bobbitt and I, at age nine, could take the trolley car for a nickel to the Saturday art classes at the Brooklyn Museum where, for many years, we could explore art and music in an always exciting and changing environment; and where chamber, orchestral and symphony music were often our backdrop . . . his heart/art with sculpture and music and mine with drawing and painting.



Phoenix Rising, 1982: Limited edition of 125, 22×28, pen and ink/pointillism, is in a number of collections



Since those formative and memorable times, creative exploration in one form or another held my interest and eventually led to my acceptance as a photography major at the High School of Industrial Arts. This was an awesome and endearing experience, attending school in mid-town Manhattan, although it sometimes seemed perplexingly out-of-touch with reality as a camera smaller than 4×5 format was prohibited and our Photo Chemistry class required us to know how to make flash powder and film emulsion . . . neither of which was of use in my soon-to-blossom world of professional photography.

 

 

Often times I have bobbed and weaved to evade the “title” of painter or illustrator, sculptor or designer, playground creator or photographer, videographer or playwright-embraced-by-mythology, which have been my many canvases of exploration on a round-the-world walkabout over the years. Instead, I embrace my center as a wellspring of unlimited and untapped psychic and intuitive possibilities, perhaps akin to the disc of a sunflower . . . and I vision its petals as the individual expressions of the core, which every creative being may explore as vehicles for creative expression; some for a few moments and others for a lifetime.

 

My creativity has flourished in many cultures and has manifested as photography in New York and Europe, automobile design/building in Europe, connections of heart with Mayan villagers drawing on shells that were exchanged for food and shelter in Yucatan, the design and creation of a solar-heated community shower system for UNICEF that was built close to the shore of Lake Atitlan in the highlands of Guatemala, and the concept, design and construction of the stage set in the General Assembly for the 50thanniversary of the United Nations in New York, the latter underwritten by the MTA, New York Port Authority and NYC businesses. 



Tapping in to different aspects of my creativity enabled me to create award-winning rotary wing aircraft in New Mexico, present a workshop on creativity for researchers at Mitsui’s Advanced Technology Center in Chiba, Japan, and for middle school teachers and students at the Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History. It is especially fulfilling to design and present community events that merge the arts community, the wellness community and the spiritual community.

 

Whilst my creative process is one that is often nurtured in solitude, a place of balance, learning, and humility that is meaningful to me is visioning and embarking on projects that flourish with the input of others . . . having the experience of artistic, engineering, and production collaboration has oftentimes created magic and in many instances I have discovered that co-creation and rule-bending leads to the most astonishing and inventive discoveries.




Ikenga GT Automobiles: Concept/Design, London 1966 to 1969*




A mantra I often sang when beginning challenging projects, especially those that later achieved successes beyond my imagining, was to “jump off the cliff and learn to fly before I hit the ground.”  My Ikenga automobile projects of the 1960s, culminating with the 1969 MK-III GT being the most acclaimed British entry in the 1969 Italian International Auto Show, were a success because of this and reflected the close collaboration with my guide and friend, British coach builder Charles Williams, and many other technology wizards and sponsors. 



The prototype 23-foot Ikenga catamaran kit, built of recycled materials in Mendocino, California, was strikingly futuristic, whilst the Scootboard, a hand portable and collapsible 35mph scooter developed initially as my emergency transportation in the face of a NYC transit strike, was later manufactured in New Mexico as a minimal structure inner urban vehicle.  The award-winning Ikenga autogiro aircraft projects of the 1980s (the Ikenga 530Z resides in the permanent collection of the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Washington, DC) was also a successful manifestation of my mantra and exemplified how grassroots teamwork can morph into a project or process that surpasses one’s original goal. Most importantly, I honor these projects, and other creations of mine, as being Spirit-guided.

 

Ikenga Aircraft: Concept/Design/Construction. Santa Fe, NM 1985 to 1992**

 

My life is the canvas and my various creative exhalations are the mechanism and vehicles for the very survival of my spirit . . . and perhaps my humanity. I am in awe of the vast creative ability that resides in each of us . . . and I grok how the harsh challenges and obligation of life can cruelly diminish one’s creative flame. Our creativity, yours and mine, may be small, whilst also being a catalyzing and life-affirming spark that resonates in ways that can alter the world-stage beyond our imagining.  And should we cross paths on the journey, share in a project, or motivate each other from a distance, may the exchange/experience be one of shared inspiration, brightening each other’s path as the talisman that ushers us towards our greatest possibility and potential.

 

This is surely the spirited diamond that we all can nurture and share with each other on the journey towards self-realization during this brief walkabout on spaceship earth.


Way Station Earth: Watercolor, brush and airbrush. Limited edition of 150, 24×30 Giclée

 

Richard M. DeVos wrote: “The only thing that stands between a person and what they want from life is often merely the will to attempt it and the faith to believe that it is possible.”
May our success on the creativity journey be the celebration of the manifested possible.
 
—dwij/David Gittens
 
 
 

Ann Dunbar, Painting & Embroidery Artist, Tells Her Story

 

 
 
Born and educated in Hampshire, UK, I am an award-winning international artist living and working my art dream in Paris, France.
 
“Only you know what you want from life, it is given to us for a reason”. 
 
From an early age I loved to draw and my parents instilled in me love for nature. A cornfield was my playing ground and I have fond memories of stacking up haystacks making a den which I used to hide and observe the wildlife. I loved dens where I felt safe. As the youngest in the family, I was often left alone to amuse myself with useful activities such as reading, sewing, and later cooking. I made my own clothes, thanks to my mother and aunt, both of whom were gifted French (Belgian) needlewomen. 
 
 
Hidden Place. Aquarium Series
 
 
I also admired the many intricate lace pieces made by my Grandmother. I drooled over the delicate and precious pieces which appeared very luxurious, especially a certain black lace dress embroidered with roses in ribbon and silk and encrusted with jet beads. Without realising it at the time, textiles and art became an important aspect in my life. I recall my father buying me a paint box and my mother requesting me to paint her a horse. When completed, I was so touched that my father framed it and it followed them wherever they went. It had pride of place in the dining room too, when they moved to their new home in France for their retirement. 
 
I have re-inherited it and it’s a constant reminder of their encouragement. My destiny to become an artist was signed and sealed from then on, however it was not as straight forward as that.
 
 
Palace & Pavilions, Mixed Media & Embroidery on Paper 
I was offered a place at Art College after schooling but again thanks to the wise advice given by my parents I attended University to obtain a teacher’s diploma, which I finalised in 1975 at Battersea College of Education. It was a fantastic year for me: I was engaged to my husband, won first prize at a painting competition in Streatham, London, and at my teacher training finals art show (textiles and fashion), I was so lucky to be recommended by the examining tutor to follow a three year arts degree in textiles and art, which I was so happy to accept.
 
Six years of university education, armed with a B.A. degree in Textiles and fine Art and a fully qualified teacher, I found myself teaching for sixteen years in schools and colleges but I still had my inner voice calling to do my own art. I finally took the plunge, went into part-time teaching and developed an original style which took ten years to find my unique expression and signature: a distinctive marrying of painting with the charm and elegance of embroidery. 
 
 
Embedded Rockpool Series. Australia
 
 
The idea came from my mother’s collection of post cards. One particular card of a Spanish dancer with an embroidered costume stood out. I thought it would be wonderful if I could combine embroidery over my watercolours on paper. What a battle!  The paper would not stand it! The paper would tear or buckle with the weight of stitching; the thread would get congested under the machine needle, the needle made too many holes! You can imagine the frustration. Patience and perseverance have a magical effect of making miracles.  
 
Benjamin Disraeli said “through persistence many people win success out of what they seemed destined to be failure”.  I had that “eureka” moment. It all fell into place with practice. I nearly gave up. I dropped the idea of sewing onto paper many times but I came back to it like a scientist in a laboratory and experimented with different papers, threads and needles with more confidence and expertise in using the machine and manipulating the paper, I discovered eventually, how to prevent thread breaking. I solved the warping of paper; I got rid of the ugly holes.
 
 
Marine Magnificence, (Gold Palm Art Award, Monaco, Mixed Media and Embroidery 80X90cm
 
The overall result was more polished and well presented. I was ready to embark on my career with my personal technique. My personal style came later.
 
Due to my husband’s job relocation, we moved to Paris. What luck, Paris, the place of dreams and art! I made the most of my surroundings; the effects of the colourful country side, the picturesque floral villages with their window boxes over –flowing with geraniums, bustling markets with exotic flowers, the wild flower prairies in the suburbs, the glorious gardens and the architecture all inspired me. I took part in the famous Parisian Salons with success accumulating diplomas and awards. 
 
I had a traditional, classical style which still did not feel special yet. I think it all started to happen when we travelled abroad. Visits to Egypt, India, Hong Kong, Cambodia, Japan and then Australia, changed how I used colour, my palette was stronger in contrast and value. My compositions were rich and bold. I continued to experiment with textures that I could acquire with certain threads: there were lots of new types of threads available commercially such as hologram, variegated and metallic.
 
 
Ponts des Arts, Embroidery on Watercolour Private Collection 50X40cm 
 
I have an inherent love of Asian Art. The style appears to flow through naturally in my work, especially with the empty spaces of colour in the painting voicing out passion, quietness or serenity and the embroidery aspect applying presence in its detail and decorative textural form to the final presented art piece.
 
Today my style is still figurative with a romantic, poetic twist. My objective is to present an invitation to embark on a timeless journey towards my perception of the world. Australia seems to have made the most influence in my work. The striking landscape forms and contrasting colours have changed my approach of working. Not only do I use water colour as a base but also I include mixed media: Gold leaf, inks, chalks, liquid acrylic interference, fibres and foils are all integrated and embellished with free embroidery. Trips to the coast south of Sydney, the Barrier reef and the Red desert made its impression and I created many works on this for several years.
 
I am now working on an underwater series inspired by the aquariums of Singapore and Okinawa. I am enraptured by the silent beauty which is hidden from us under the sea. An aquarium is gratifying to observe, it brings us closer to understanding this fragile world and helps us to appreciate the diversity as well as the magnetic appeal of marine life. This watery world in which may hold the root of life itself poses many questions about our existence and the eventual human impact on this frail place.
 
My fascination for the sea is probably due to a near death drowning experience as a child. This bewitching pull, the fear of deep water, is probably to remind me to be grateful to be alive. Face the fear and it will become a friend. I simply love being an artist as it is my way of contributing something back to the world that inspires me.
Autumn Extravaganza (Kyoto Japan) (Private Collection)

 

 

 
 

Priscilla Vail, Singer/Songwriter, Tells Her Story

As early as I can remember I was enthralled with the guitar. I believe my love of music started in the crib when mother would clap and sing to encourage me to dance. Every time I was asked what toys I wanted, the answer was the same: a guitar. So every year I got a toy guitar and hoped one day a real one would be available for a child my size. Fast forward to the age of 14. I borrowed a guitar with 4 strings from a friend. Intuitively I tuned it to an E Chord and started playing it. One month later I got my first real 6 string guitar, learning some chords from my brother in law and I was set to go.
I spent the entire summer playing every song I could think of on our front porch. I should dig up some old addresses to apologize to those neighbors, but they never complained. Within a few weeks I started performing at local coffee houses and writing my own music. In time, my 3 best friends joined me and “Together Now” was formed. We had so much fun playing gigs and singing our 3 part harmonies. My guitar accompanied me to every function, even to school where I spent countless hours playing in the bathroom where the acoustics were excellent. I started playing the 12 string, familiarized myself with bass guitar, mandolin and the banjo and I even named my guitars. In time our group moved in a different direction and evolved to just 3 girls.

 

We played gigs throughout the D.C. and Maryland area, did some radio shows and started working with a singing coach who encouraged us to play our original music. He and a Warner Brothers executive put us in a recording studio. I loved the writing and the gigs, but studio work was repetitive and grueling, sometimes 13 hr days. I soon realized this was not a journey for me. We parted ways and I moved to Texas, working as a manager of a guitar shop, teaching in a local music studio and performing my music at local venues.
It became evident that my joy came from inspiring others. In time, we moved to Oregon. I continued performance and teaching but also segued into classical guitar. I found such inspiration from the Baroque era whose musicians created works for ensembles with such contrast and variety.  The consistent basso continuo provided the theme of each piece with a variety of instrument overtones of compatible melodies and harmonies!  I was amazed at the beauty of contrapuntal harmonies. Most harmonies follow a melody line by notes that are a 3rd or sometimes a 5th interval higher. However contrapuntal music is distinctive in that the voicings are completely independent of each other but still harmonizing. If you look at the notes on the staff you would see the musical notes moving away from each other in counterpoint before coming together again. It is lovely and complex. I began my writing my own music in that style.

 

The more I learned about music, the more intrigued I became. I was in awe that if someone loved a period of art I could perfectly match their taste in music by pairing music and art on a timeline, and randomly picking any composer of that era. I was amazed how long after these composers had passed, their music could uplift me so. I became immersed in the works of Vivaldi, Telemann and Corelli. One humorous experience occurred while I was undergoing a surgical procedure and under anesthetic. As music was being played in the operating room, the surgeon asked his staff if it was Bach. I piped up “No. That is Teleman’s Viola concerto in G major, 2nd movement.” The surgeon later recounted the story and thanked me for the surprise and subsequent laughter.

 

I found that I began writing pieces of music in my sleep and on waking felt driven to write the words and transcribe the music as I heard it. One personal setback occurred when a failed neck surgery caused my left arm to atrophy and I was unable to play. I became so deeply depressed. A dear friend placed her small harp in my lap for me to play it but I could hardly move my fingers. After some days of trying I was able to manipulate the strings. In time my desire to play actually began to be therapeutic as the vibrations palpated the solar plexus. The harp was healing not only my hands, but my soul.  Shortly thereafter I was not only able to play the harp, but also my growing collection of lovely guitars and instruments, and I felt it was time to turn to the studio again.
My songs were the expressions of many positive things, my code of life as it were, and I wanted to share it with others. They included gratitude for loyal friends, optimism for a friend with cancer, a reminder that our gift of life cannot be wasted, and it must be passed on to our progeny. It is a message that we should give our best to others, but be true to who we are and never, no, never, give ourselves away.

 

George Frederic Handel once wrote to a nobleman, “My lord, I should be sorry if I only entertained them,” Handel humbly revealed, “I wish to make them better.” Music can have such a profound effect on us. I wanted to produce just one compilation of my music that would give a positive message of hope to others because that is the meaning of music. Despite our challenges, failures and tragedies, in the end, we must always be hopeful, for music can make us better.

 

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Anita Wexler, Mixed Media Visual Artist, Tells Her Story

 

I grew in a small town in Illinois; surrounded by cornfields and pastures. It was a nice quiet place to grow up in. It was scenic and beautiful, though unfortunately my family didn’t embrace the arts. When I was five years, I wanted to be a ballerina and my family just laughed. A few years later, I wanted to learn to play the piano and my mother asked me, “Do you see a piano anywhere?” So I realized my resources were pencils and notebook paper. I would draw and doodle in my classes to help me to focus. Eventually, my art teacher gave me a few pieces of drawing paper and that was my start as a visual artist.
I loved my small farm town but I just dreamt of more. I wanted to explore the different cultures and locales around the world so I joined in the U.S. Navy after high school when my parents made me turn down an art scholarship. I endured some rough times, but thankfully I ended up moving to New York City where I attended Parsons New School of Design and Bank Street College of Education, after receiving a scholarship that paid half of my tuition. Later, I went back to school and received my M. Ed from National Louis University.
My art is a reflection of my life on a personal level. I have faced financial, emotional and heartache just like so many others and my paintings are chunks of time on canvas or paper. I have travelled to over 30 countries; however, I have so many more places that I want to visit. 
My artwork is influenced from my travels and from my mentor, Philipp Valy out of New York, as well as by the Masters, Hieronymus Bosch, Dorothea Tanning and Max Ernst. From this I have created by own style of of “Primitive Pop”. 
My Native American roots echo through my artwork as I create outdoor sculptures in my ‘Totem Series,” which is a contemporary twist of Native American totem poles, my drawings and my paintings. 
 
I am a mother of three amazing children, who are my biggest inspiration. My hope is that I will make them proud of me. I am an Art teacher at a High School and a full-time artist/illustrator. I teach my students drawing, painting, and other art forms. 

Lori Loveberry George, Mixed Media Artist, Tells Her Story

 

 

Its all about mark making and process. I need to capture the essence of whatever I draw.  I am not a painter, but I paint on my drawings.
 
 
 
#212, Acrylic, Wax & Charcoal, 60 x 48

 

I used to have to make all my drawing perfect, rework, overwork, until I killed it. In high school art class, one of the other students told me, “You ruin all your drawings. You overwork everything.” I never forgot that, and still I overworked them to draftsmanship perfection. It was the finished product that was important, but that is not important anymore.  
#2145, Pastel, Acrylic & Charcoal, 30 x 23
In 2006, when I was 48, I went back to college to get my BA in visual arts. It was then I finally learned how to let go of my need to control, and to play. It changed my life and my mark making. I allowed myself to take risks and learned to trust the process. One of my instructors gave me my breakthrough assignment: Tape up at least a 5’ x 5’ paper, apply a wax resist medium, use thin acrylic, and paint with a 4” wide brush. I was terrified. I continued the process, combining different materials and substrates, and I was free from a tightly rendered perfection prison.  
 
 
 
Wild Child, Wax & Acrylic, 59 x 51
 
I still like to set up vignettes and draw from life — it’s my meditation. I like to plot out, sight and measure the image to the paper. It fulfills my need to control, but I am practicing observation skills, not to create a perfect drawing.
Angel Caido, Pastel on Paper, 24 x 18
 
 
 
 
Grand Idea II, Pastel on Paper, 24 x 19
 
The human form interests me the most. Gesture and form can tell a story that evokes a primal unspoken language regardless of race, class, or culture.  In 2013, I created a series of drawings and large scale mixed media paintings based on a book I found at the library – Pictures From a Drawer, Prison and the Art of Portraiture by Bruce Jackson – of restored images of early 20th century prison I.D. mug shots. Like looking in a mirror, these haunting images reveal the beauty of the flaws, scars, and vulnerability of the human condition, which most of us are afraid to acknowledge.

 

#1858, Acrylic, Charcoal & Wax, 30 x 23

Robert Lighthouse, Singer/Songwriter, Tells His Story

 

I’ve been playing music and performing most of my adult life and pretty much knew that is what I wanted to do ever since I was 14 years old. It was the blues that really got me. One of my friends played some old Muddy Waters recordings and that was it for me. Then I heard Jimi Hendrix and was really gone! From then on, all we really did was talk about music and guitar playing, and of course, we spent a lot of hours learning how to play.

 

For as long as I can remember I have always loved to sing. When I was three years old I used to sing “She loves you yeah yeah yeah” continually. What’s great about music is that you can communicate feelings and emotions from heart to heart live on stage to the audience. And, when things really work, I think the performer picks up the feelings and emotions from the listeners and can express them back out again. It can allow you to cross the loneliness barrier.
Click here: Democracy Blvd CD

 

Music is very direct and physical so when one is able to lose oneself and just  channel it that’s  when it really works. That’s when we can possibly connect souls here and on the other side.
Music  naturally  has a lot of sides — to dance to and have a great time , and now I feel like I’m reciting the alphabet but it’s one of those fantastic things where we don’t need anything but our voices and maybe hand clapping and all of a sudden we all create something magical together.
Editors Note: Robert was in Russia this past week playing at the BB King festival in Moscow. He sent along these two pictures below of women in traditional folk dresses in the town of Archangelsk and the train station in Smolensk.  He is playing two gigs in Sweden this coming weekend. You can check out his website for his upcoming touring schedule. 

 

 

Kelly Atkins, Dancer & Instructor, Tells Her Story

 
 
 
 
 
 
Life has a way of teaching you to dance with it or be dragged along…
Something happened to me last November, something that so pushed my edges of sanity I was literally swept off my feet and not in a pleasant lovey-dovey dance-y kind of way. I’ve taught dance in the Sarasota community for over 15 years and previous to that taught traditional fitness for another 13 years. I’ve danced thru moving to a new city, being married and divorced, and married again. I’ve danced thru two pregnancies and natural births, raising my children. I’ve seen my husband through “breaks” in his reality as he struggled with mental illness. I’ve danced thru many “leaps of faith” including leaving a company I represented for 13 years and starting out on my own as founder of Kai a dance-based creative movement class that blends authentic movement with simple choreography. 
Dancing through these life changing events was meaningful and I have to say having DANCE as a constant to check in with myself was imperative to moving ahead in my life. My regular classes were my anchors when life around me was changing so fast and I found myself struggling to see the direction things were moving. Then this last November I began to experience panic attacks. Out of nowhere, in the middle of the night at 3:00 a.m. or simply driving the kids to get groceries, I would feel my heart start to race and my breath increase in short gasps. A feeling of fear would grip my heart and I would have to immediately stop whatever I was doing to try to slow it down. The attacks were coming 3-4 times a week in November. The causes were obvious. A combination of menopause hormones in flux, the end of a 6-month romance that ended in a sudden perceived betrayal, and the simultaneous ending of my 12-year marriage all conspired to disorient me.

 

Suddenly thoughts of darkness started to seep in and I began to wonder if I’d be able to take care of my kids, keep my business going, function enough to just get through each day. I started with writing LIKE CRAZY — expressing every crazy thought, every emotion and weeding through the random chaos to get to some logic and comfort under the spinning of my mind. The digging in unearthed fruitful life-changing wisdom. I dove in fully, kept digging and found remnants of a teenage girl who was scared, alone, and reacting to life with a variety of tactics that simply didn’t work anymore….and yet I didn’t want to bury her….No WAY. A larger part of me knew it was more about integrating and soothing, maybe self-mothering would be a term. I recognized that current events were having me relive past trauma and go into a space of reactivity. Knowledge is power so I kept digging.
Each time I danced Kai I knew I felt better, I felt a deep inner peace and openness that helped me to breathe deeper, more naturally. The students whom I’ve watched and supported thru the years completely “got” the space I was in as their teacher and I felt cocooned. I didn’t have to tell the group what was happening, it was just a knowing. The community had become sensate and wise enough that they knew, and they supported me deeply. There was one class I walked in and gulped out “ today we will focus on breath” before snorting out the ugly cry and just dissolving it into the dance that needed to move me. No one asked me what it was, they just knew I could dance thru it and that every dance isn’t the “happy one” even if it does feel so good to release years of grief.
 
 
 

 

Another class felt like my inner teenager was pissed off. Every movement of my arms created lines and boundaries as a fierce warning that needed to be voiced NOW, after years of pushing it down in an effort to be loved by another. Ugh, I feel sad and embarrassed saying that, but it’s true. The shame and self-judgment only made things worse. This was a new dance for me and I knew resisting it wouldn’t help, and I knew I couldn’t do it alone. I reached out and received…

 

Thru my years in dance I’ve made the deepest and most heart felt connections to amazingly talented people. I made appointments with my therapist, a coach who has taken my trainings, with healer friends who offered everything from shamanic ritual to essential oils and meditations. I scheduled private yoga with a gifted teacher and I attended yoga religiously. I kept writing, kept reaching, stayed with it. I took Spanish lessons to get my mind off things and to develop my voice more. I began painting and slowly, ever so slowly I regained some focus and perspective. I started with goals around eating, drinking water, daily meditation, vitamins, yoga and dancing every day.

 

One particular yoga class I remember telling my teacher how I felt a panic attack coming on very subtly as I simply lifted my left arm and reached across my body. Somehow in this awareness my heart rate slowed down, and that was the last sign of the attacks. I danced in my backyard going thru the wild mix of emotions that had brewed during the storm of panic… loss, disbelief, loneliness, fear, abandonment, betrayal, anger, rage and more. I allowed them to move my body and I videoed it. I shared it with trusted friends who witnessed. A close dancing friend said, “ bring in more of that anger…try that.” It was good advice, he could see where I repressed it in my body but only spoke about it in my writing. I didn’t want sympathy, but I wanted how broken I was to be seen. I wanted to share my healing path. Something inside me guided me to go thru it, not avoid it. To be real, authentic and that included the extreme vulnerability of being seen this way. I knew in some way it’d make me able to help others better – once I was better.
Each day I felt a little more whole though I wondered if I would smile again as even the muscles of my face had changed. It took effort to smile and I could not pretend something I wasn’t feeling. I cut my long blonde hair to a short boy cut and dyed it red. I wanted to be changed from it all, an energetic clearing on every level. As I look back now, I realize the many gifts and wisdom I received from “dancing with” what I was experiencing versus pushing it down, ignoring, or toughing it out and not letting the feelings move. I was able to heal some very old patterns that were lurking under the surface in how I related to people, how I showed up in relationship, and in how I attracted and picked the people I allowed into my life and heart.
I am louder, stronger, more direct and still have that angry inner teenager as my backup who has taught me that saying “f*** off” is sometimes the most brave, heartfelt truth and clearest expression of a feeling. It’s also a great and sometimes needed boundary of saying “yes” to self-love and “no” to anything that feels other. I’ve learned how to love and be gentle authentically.
“Life as a dance” is a philosophy I teach Kai teachers-in-training. It’s a practice of looking at the cycles, stages, and events that life offers and finding a way to dance with it all. To engage with life and view it all as one big spiral that we can harmonize and dance with rather than avoid. On the dance floor it’s a practice of inviting the body’s impulses, emotions, dreams and thoughts. We allow it to have it’s expression and movement, witnessing from a place of non-judgment. It’s a meditation of noticing what the body gravitates too and letting it unfold.
 
 
 

 

Most often when we dance we “think” our way into steps, patterns, and trying to find the “socially acceptable” way of moving. Other times the patterns are so encoded within us we just move like we do in life with armor and robotic movements. “Life as a dance” is more conscious and allows one to soften into what is happening, looking at your dance as a microcosm of what is happening outside the dance room in life. In this dance room I can explore and peel off the layers of training, fear, pain, or disconnect, revealing a vulnerable yet strong core that feels so good, strangely ancient, and yet is new…. new, fierce, creative, and edgy. It’s in this dance room that I get to change and grow. 

 

Witnessed by community with love and awareness, I found my new feet and now stand in a deeper, wider space of self than I did before. I’m more open and available and present. This is dance medicine at it’s best and I am so grateful.

The Big Reveal: 52 New Artists Tell Their Stories in 2018

IN 

ARTISTS TELL THEIR STORIES
IS
PLEASED TO INTRODUCE ITS ARTISTS FOR 2018!

January
Ann Phong
Mixed Media Artist
January 11th
 
Alexandra Sherman
Watercolorist
January 18th
Joe Ganech
Etheric Painter
January 25th
February
Bryan Jacobs
Chef & Founder Vets to Chefs
     February 1st     
Patrick Henry
Painter
February 8th
                     
Warren Jackson
Painter
February 15th
Bill Farnsworth
           Visual Artist
 February 22nd   
MARCH
Judith Peck
Painter
  March 1st  
Frank Linn
Chef
   March 8th

Jane Caminos
Visual Artist & Founder, On Women Bound
March 15th
Skip Dyrda
Muralist
March 22nd
Angela White
Painter
March 29th
April
James Earley
Painter of the Homeless
April 5th
Mollie Jones
Watercolorist
April 12th
  
 
Leda Black
Graphic Artist
April 19th
Robin Croft
Visual Artist
April 26th
May
Cynthia Jamin
Fiber Artist, Twirly Girl Founder
May 3rd
Anne Marchand
Painter
 May 10th
Laura Ho
Muralist & Illustrator
May 17th
Andrew Kosorok
Glass Artist
May 24th
Giles Newman
Spoon Carver
May 31st
June
Alberto Bustos
Ceramic Sculptor
June 7th
Richard McNeil
Visual Artist
June 14th
                                  
Dennis West
Steel Sculptor
June 21st
Lauren Jacobsen
Animator
June 28th
July
  
Jacob Berghoef
Photographic Impressionist
July 5th
                                     
Sarah Marie Lacy
Figurative Artist
July 12th
 
Niki Francesca Bramante
Visual Artist & Printmaker
July 19th
Leslie Smith III
Painter
July 26th
August
Sheryl Zachara
Ceramic Sculptor
August 2nd
Mati Russo
Abstract Painter
August 9th
Renee Blue O’Connell
Musician
August 16th
Ray Besserdin
Paper Sculptor
August 23rd
Janeve West
Theater Director & Storyteller
     August 30th      
September

Mandy Kerr
Writer
September 6th
Jessica Beels
Visual Artist
September 13th
        
Jill Hoffman-Kowal
Conceptual Visual Artist, Musically Inspired
September 20th
 
Manal Deeb
Visual Artist
September 27th
October
Joyce Zipperer
Mixed Media Artist
October 4th
                           
Rose Jaffe
Muralist
October 11th
Marilyn Banner
Visual Artist
October 18th
Jackie Hoysted
Mixed Media Artist
October 25th
November
 
Gordon Pembridge
Wood Carver
November 1st
Dennis J. Kowal
American Sculptor
November 8th
Michael Kobrin
Musician
November 15th
John Tabacco
Recording & Graphic Artist
November 22nd
Gloria Chapa
Detrius Sculptor
November 29th
December
Marguerite Jill Dye
Painter, Illustrator & Writer
December 6th
Gabrielle Lennon
Poet & Storyteller
December 13th
Hung Viet Nguyen
Painter
December 20th

Ethan Whitman
Pencil Artist
December 27th


Krista Bjorn, Book Author & Photographer, Tells Her Story

 
 

Navigating financial deserts is part and parcel of the artist life.
Sometimes our work sells beautifully and provides us with everything we need to pay for power, internet, and dinner out with dear friends. Other times we need to supplement with regular work to allow us to keep doing what makes our hearts sing. And now and then, life throws a curve ball where we don’t have enough money, work has dried up, and each day becomes a struggle to keep trying and cling to hope.
I went through that struggling stage this year.
I had finally built a great work/art balance and was so happy and excited about the future. Then a boss reneged on a contract, my new boss announced that my job would include sexual favors (I reported him), and the next boss disappeared, literally, the day I was to receive my first pay check (I reported him too).
Reporting those scoundrels felt good morally, but it was devastating financially. To go without a sufficient paycheck for one month is manageable, but for five? It was gutting. And stressful and scary and sad.
I knew I had a choice to make. I had no power over getting a new job or suddenly having enough money for all the bills piling up, but I had a choice in my attitude and in how I used that time.
So, I had a good cry, fumed about how unfair it all was, then took a deep breath, and a few more, and chose to make the most of it.
I planted gardens so we would always have something to eat, I cut back in every possible way to lower our monthly bills, I collected wheelbarrows full of weeds and grasses from the fields and gardens to keep our animals fed, and I applied for every job I could find. Then, I created.
I wood-burned spoons, cutting boards, and spatulas.


I harvested, dried, and blended herbal teas.
 
And I wrote and published two books: “herb & spice: a little book of medieval remedies” and “Desert Fire: medieval nomad food”.
 
I drew on my experiences as a medieval reenactor, and the years of research and experimentation I’ve done to make medieval medicines and medieval tribal food for demonstrations I give at festivals and schools throughout the year.
I spent weeks in my tiny kitchen slow-roasting lamb until it was fork-tender and moist with flavorful drippings, and pounding together dates, clarified butter, honey, and spices into beautiful spreads that never go off in the desert heat.
 
 
I simmered elderberries with spices and raw honey into a nourishing cordial that fortifies the immune system and helps stave off colds and flus, and mixed up innumerable herbal concoctions to soothe sore throats, calm upset stomachs, and ease headaches.
I taste-tested and arranged photo shoots, edited photos and wrote stories, histories, and recipes, designed the books, and finally, they were done, printed, and in my hands.
 
They’ve gone to new homes in Australia, Canada, and the United States, inspiring people with the creativity and ingenuity of our ancestors who always knew how to use fruits, vegetables, animals, and herbs to heal their ailments and provide the nourishment they needed to care for their families.
When I see them with my books now I feel so much warmth and love and gratitude, for their creation saw me through months of deprivation and stress, anxiety and grief, wondering if there would ever be light at the end of the tunnel again. They are the product of hope, the belief that if we keep doing the work, things will work out in the end.
 
Thankfully I have consistent work now, with editors who keep their word, pay on time, and treat me with respect and kindness. I’m slowly catching up financially, and give thanks every time I have enough money to cover a new bill. And I’m so proud that those dreadful months didn’t take me down, that, in the midst of loss and pain, I made something good and beautiful.

Lauren Rader, Visual Artist, Tells Her Story

 

 

My life and art have been entwined for as long as I can remember. That symbiosis started to include writing when I was a teenager. My love for both art and writing has never wavered. Not even a little.

 

Cattails, acrylic on canvas, 48 X 60
I was 9 years old when I discovered my love for minimalism, though I had no word for it at the time. It happened as I wiled away my time in 4th grade placing one loose-leaf page on top of another and coloring in the holes, creating dots on the page below. The contrast of the dark circles on the white page was electrifying. And then, one day, I shaded one perfect circle onto the lower left side of the under-sheet. Just one black circle floating on a page of white. Perfection. I took it home and hid it. I knew no one else would understand. I hid it to protect myself, but I never forgot the stark beauty of that single dot.
Since then, I’ve worked in lots of different media, majoring in ceramic sculpture in college, and then carving in stone for years. For a time, my main medium was colored pencils, and then chalk pastels. But no matter the medium, abstraction has been my constant companion and self-expression my fuel and subject matter.
 

 

Seahorse, painted alabaster
One year I had the good fortune to study at Harvard. I took the opportunity to paint in oils full time. As I worked, the dot I had hidden away when I was 9 ruminated in my mind. And so, with the maturity of age, and the confidence gained through years of art-making, I finally created a body of work inspired by that original dot. For the next 3 years, I continued to keep my palette to none other than black, white, and occasionally, gold. A friend of mine calls my work from that period rich minimalism. With the rich texture and deep simplicity of that work, I think it’s an apt description.

 

Dancing with the Muse, oil on canvas, 83.5 X 59.5
I’ve always taught as a way to keep my art pure – I didn’t have to depend on it for money. I taught in schools for years, but in 2005, I opened up my studio to teach women, in classes I call Releasing the Creative Powers Within. My book, Studio Stories: Illuminating Our Lives through Art was inspired by the stories from the classes. Here’s a summary of Studio Stories:
 
“When artist Lauren Rader begins inviting women into her studio for classes in creativity, she has no idea what she is about to unleash. Drawn by a common yearning to express themselves through art, the women soon find that the path to creativity leads deep within—to hidden thoughts, buried memories, and dramatic life changes. Here, Rader relates their intensely personal journeys, along with insights from a lifetime of teaching and artistry, and from her daily walks along the river with her sweet dog, Wiley.”
 

 

Studio Stories: Illuminating Our Lives through Art
I’m proud that Studio Stories has been really well received and currently has 32 five-star reviews on Amazon.
Art-making and writing have taken care of me throughout my life. From the very beginning and still now, they guide and console me through the joys and pitfalls of life. Lately, my artwork is deeply entangled with grave concerns for our world. Much of my work has been dark of late, reflecting my worries for the people of our earth and the warming of the planet. This piece, Don’t Close Your Eyes, was done for and about the Indigenous people of our country. When I sell this piece, I’ll send the proceeds to them.

 

Don’t Close Your Eyes, acrylic, ink, feather on canvas, 24 X 24
I believe art and writing will both have a hand in moving the people of our world toward compassion for oneself and others, and then, most hopefully, to a world of peace.

 

Ascension, acrylic on canvas, 40 X 30

Tim Jaeger, Painter, Tells His Story

 
 
I’d like to thank Brenda for all of her energies in putting together 52 Artists in 52 Weeks. As someone who works with multiple artists on a daily basis, I know first-hand that dealing with artists is a little bit like herding cats. This being said, it is with people like Brenda that all artists benefit from this kind of exposure, which in turn provides artists all over the country and beyond to make their voices and work heard and seen. 

CS no. 20, 36 x 48, acrylic and oil on canvas, 2015

Thus far, 2015 was in my top five most productive and successful years. I didn’t look or think so much about reinventing my work or myself — instead I continued to work and elaborate on the subjects I began painting nearly 10 years ago. I’ve never felt that I need jump from subject to subject, rather I enjoy exploring the different ways I can elaborate on my process — evolving a little more each time. 
Tim’s Studio

 

I consider each of my works to provide one-liners, rather than stories — when put together the one-liners become paragraphs and the paragraphs begin to tell my story. However, my ultimate goal is not to tell my story, part of my goal is for each painting to be able to hang by itself — to be visually consumed by the enthusiast and to hopefully give the enthusiast an understanding and/or greater appreciation. Unlike many in this current industry, I believe in the equality of fine art and ornamentation. 

Oink III, 36 x 48, acrylic and oil on canvas and fabric, 2015

 
 
I began using fabric patterns in my paintings this year, reincorporating some of the notations of Fauvism. For me, this is an ongoing quest for purity and authenticity within my work. Pattern and color combined with shape and form, I believe, informs my work with a sort of honesty while allowing unsensored expression. 

CS 17, 36×48, acrylic and oil on canvas and fabric

Another change I made in 2015 was where I display my work. For many years I was under the belief that the only acceptable venue where my work should be displayed was within a gallery or museum — the 4 white walls. While I was able to accomplish this, I felt as though I missed some of my audience, and I was right. So, I began to focus more on quality restaurants.
Derek’s Restaurant
Restaurants are spaces of consumption, leisure and entertainment charged with pleasure and meaning. These establishments cater to the masses, to all classes and genders while providing an environment to intermingle. For the artist, this has the ability to play a crucial role in the visual consumption and social interaction by the viewer of their creation. Since the beginning of Modern Art, the establishment of the café as a cultural and social institution has served as a replacement for the Academy while providing a resource (and influential factor) for the birth and formation of discussions and movements amongst patrons, artists, and writers. Think about it for a minute and ask yourself, “Where is the first place you go after an exhibition opening”?  Art that absolutely HAS to be in a gallery, isn’t art. 
 
 
 
 

Hereford in Dogwoods, 36 x 48, acrylic and oil on canvas and fabric

 
 
 
 
 

Red Jungle, 84 x 36, acrylic and oil on canvas, 2015

Bill Farnsworth, Painter, Tells His Story

Upon graduating from Ringling School of Art and Design in 1980 I headed back home to New Milford, Connecticut, expecting to get Illustration work right away in New York. Block after block I carried a huge portfolio of original art, heading to book publishers, magazines, to hopefully get representation from one of the big art representatives.

 

Brunch

 

That didn’t happen right away, in fact, it took me 10 years to go full time as an illustrator. I often said, “smarter people would have found something better to do”, but this was my course whether predestined or stubborn.
In 1982 I met the love of my life and married Deborah Marie Jajer in 1984. In the fall of ’87 our first daughter, Allison was 10 months old and Deb was expecting our second daughter, Caitlin, so I decided to go full time as an Illustrator after years of working full time surveying for my father. I did odd Illustration jobs at night and weekends. We lived above my in-laws, so we had built in baby sitters, plus rent control.
Rhythm
It was a calculated risk, because I had one big job to illustrate a brochure for these new town houses in New Milford, Connecticut, where we lived. My first meeting with the developer and ad agency was a disaster. My sketches were awful. I left there thinking my one chance to go full time and I just blew it. They gave me two weeks to get new sketches and bring them to the agency in New Haven. I used my mother-in-law’s knitting room as a studio and decided to go right to finishes, because this was my last chance.
Against the Tide
Two weeks later, I drove my MG down to New Haven with 4 rolled up loose canvases and walked into the agency to a group of nervous looking art directors and designers. Like rolling the dice, I rolled out the canvases and they loved them! Driving back home was one of the happiest moments of my life. It meant I could go full time as a real illustrator, as least for a few months.
Craft and Light
My dad gave me a storage space at his surveying business for my studio. Now the building he rented was a former Funeral Home. My first studio was an embalming room! It didn’t creep me out because I was painting full time.
I knocked around doing all sorts of Illustrations after the town house brochure. I did a magazine cover of a giant screw floating through space for $200.
It was my introduction into Children’s Books that put me on an 18-year career in publishing. I loved illustrating “the story”. I had to paint everything under the sun. Where I honed my craft was during my two-year project illustrating the six books for American Girls, “Kaya”.
After that project I got a lot more jobs illustrating not only Native Americans, but historic subject matter from Lewis and Clark to the Holocaust. At first, I didn’t know how I was going to illustrate one of mankind’s worst moments. I decided I was going to be brutally honest, yet with a window of hope. In these dark times heroes like Irena Sendler and Simon Wiesenthal showed their true light.
Hooked
Illustrating the story was great fun and educational too. In high school I thought Lewis and Clark were just two guys on a hike! I had the great privilege to work with some wonderful authors and try to tell their story without words. If the kids could figure out what’s going on in the painting, I felt I did my job.
Buffalo Soldier
Around 2016 my non-fiction books were being produced cheaper with stock photos and art. It kind of sterilized history for kids. I knew years before that Illustration was going away, which is why I started cultivating the Fine Art gallery scene.
In my Illustration career I knew I was going to get paid but with galleries you produce a painting in the hopes you might get paid. Finally, the right collector walks into the gallery and pays a lot of money to live with your painting. No greater compliment to an artist.
I would supplement my income with teaching workshops and attending plein air paint outs. Paint outs invite 20-50 artists from all over the country to document the community’s area. These events have popped up all over the United States by a 15-year Plein Air movement, supported by the baby boomers and Plein Air Magazine. There is even a Plein Air Convention.
Silver Run Summer
Going outside and setting up my easel has helped me improve my painting a great deal. You must learn to choose, edit and capture the essence of a scene. A couple bought my plein air study and asked me to write down my inspiration for painting the scene. What started out as a paragraph turned into a full page. I remembered a great deal from that 2-hour time.
In East Point, Florida, I was painting an oyster boat along the edge of Rt. 98. This disheveled guy came up to watch me paint and he told me he built the boat I was painting. He fished, built boats, and houses his whole life. He worked his butt off to pay for his sons chemo in Tallahassee. I thought sometimes painting outside is not so much about painting, but the experience.
Yonder Comes Willy Boy
So today I paint what moves me and have been in direct contact with. I start the story and the viewer can finish it.

 

Heather C. Williams, Visual Artist, Tells Her Story

 

My story is about SEARCHING. To me, drawing is the simplest, most powerful, creative and inexpensive art form capable of doing DEEP, CREATIVE SEARCHING. I feel that it is essential for all of us to learn HOW TO THINK more clearly, critically and creatively. The good news is that drawing can help all of us practice this.
 
As a child I was fascinated with drawing as a way to learn about the world around me and within me. I drew my thoughts. I drew my feelings. I drew my parents arguing to better understand them. I drew birds and animals. I drew stories. I liked a boy in 4th grade and wanted to get to know him but was too shy to approach him directly, so I found a photograph of him and got to know him a bit by drawing his face. 
 
My kindergarten teacher told my mother to encourage my drawing and mom was happy to do this. Drawing and painting were activities she used to bring her mind and body back to wholeness from a serious nervous breakdown at age 19. Mom spent 10 years living in an upstairs bedroom, and then, at 29 years of age, in 1941, she felt strong enough to leave the house and go to a local USO dance where she met my dad, a much younger US Army Sergeant. 
 
Mom was always a quiet person, not a social person or a big talker. She also was not a deep thinker. My dad was the deep thinker, philosopher, and questioner of life. I think I am a bit more like dad. But, like mom, I find drawing and painting to be healing, centering and a valuable way of feeling connected.
Mom, Pencil on Paper, 18″x20″
This is an observational drawing of my mom two years after her very serious heart attack at age 89. She sat completely still, hardly saying a word, while I drew her for 2 hours.
Dad, Prismacolor Pencil on Rives Paper, 8″x10″
This is an observational drawing of my Dad done a few weeks before he died from cancer in 1992. He was staying with me while getting radiation treatments at the Veteran’s Hospital in Milwaukee. These two drawings kind of connect me eternally with my parents.

 

Mom’s JourneyPen and Ink on Paper,  8″x10″
This is an emotional/intuitive drawing that I did of my mom while I was sitting next to her as she lay in Intensive Care hooked up to many machines and could not speak. The year was 1999. I sat next to her bed, held her left hand in my right hand and drew with my left, or non-dominant hand. I started by just scribbling. I did not know where I was going with this drawing. It took hours and hours. At one point there was a mean-looking spider in the bottom right corner and I saw it as a creature coming to take mom away. Thankfully the spider turned into a smiling snail that told me “this will take a little time”. 
 
The whole drawing expresses my mother’s journey in the sea of unknown possibilities. At one point the doctors talked about hooking her up to a ventilator. My sister and I told them, no, mom would not want that. Amazingly, mom began getting better the next morning. She survived and lived another 7 years with the pacemaker. 
 
During this time with mom, I discovered what I call Intuitive drawing. I continue to practice this kind of drawing today. I quiet down, relax and focus my mind on the highest Truth that I know and I spend one minute focusing on this Truth. Then, I draw a line or a squiggle and letting my intuition or imagination take that line and develop a drawing. 
 
I write about this in my book, Drawing as a Sacred Activity. In the book, I offer three different kinds of drawing exercises: Observational Drawing, Emotional Drawing and Intuitive Drawing.
 
My book, Published by New World Library, 2002
My SEARCH took a DEEP DIVE when I left home to live in a college dorm at age 18. My parents loved me and to prepare me to live in the world safely, they told me their beliefs about what I would find in the world. However, I did not see what they told me I would see. So I concluded that what they told me was a belief or an opinion. But it was not the Truth. 
 
That’s when I began to look around and ask this deep question that no one seemed able to answer: “Is there such a thing as Truth…or is it all opinion?”  Be aware, dear reader, (especially if you are a young person), that if you have a deep question that cannot easily be answered – it will begin to drive your life and take you places far beyond what you presently know. 

In 1968, I left college and went to San Francisco to explore hallucinogenics. Below is a self-portrait of me at age 22 after spending a year doing hallucinogenics. My friends were panhandling on the street and I quietly wondered: Is this how I am to live the rest of my life? I was pretty lost and I knew it. Thankfully, I finished college in 1970 and went back to San Francisco to search for a teacher to help me answer my BIG QUESTION about Truth. 
 
Self Portrait, Pencil on Paper, 22” x 29”
In San Francisco, I met Thane Walker, who became my teacher, at The Prosperos School of Ontology. One day, I distinctly remember grabbing my remaining mescaline tablets and flushing them down the toilet when I heard Thane say: “Drugs may take you to a new, different, even higher place. . . but you always have to return to where you started. If you want to LIVE in a higher place – you must do some work on yourself!”  
So I began “working on myself” by taking Prosperos classes, talking with counselors, and wouldn’t you know – I could see that my ego was caught up in my drawing! So I decided to temporarily stop drawing so that I could study my ego and learn about the deeper Truth of my Being. I said silently to myself, “If ART is meant to be part of my life – it will return to me.” And it did. But it took a few years.
 
I moved to Mt Shasta in 1971 to do more intensive work on myself with Liz Andrews, HWM. Then, in 1972 I moved to Santa Monica to live close to and work at The Prosperos Inner Space Center. In 1978, after 6 years of classes and working on my memories, beliefs, attitudes, etc., I became a Prosperos High Watch Mentor. A High Watch Mentor is a degree that means, I have committed myself to keep the “High Watch” (to look beyond materialistic circumstances to reveal the eternal and boundless reality always present in the midst of things). The Prosperos School of Ontology continues, to this day, to be the greatest influence in my life.
 
The self portrait above, at age 45, is an expression of myself as an artist and High Watch Mentor, practicing self-observation, or  nonjudgmental seeing.
 
 Max, Oil Painting,18 “ x 24″
For the next 5 years, I was an apprentice to Master Artist, Jan Valentin Saether, where I learned not only WHAT to look for in order to draw and paint what I see, but also how to grind pigments, boil mediums and work with oil paint. I have done many oil paintings but this one I did of Max is probably my favorite. Max is Cindy’s grandfather. Who is Cindy? Keep reading, and you’ll find out at the end of this story.
Eduardo, Pencil on Paper, 8” x 10”
I am deeply grateful for what Mr. Saether taught me about letting go of seeing things you can name (tree, cup, face, man, woman, hand) and instead looking for vertical, horizontal and diagonal directions. Paying close attention to where the directions intersect is also something I practice.
Jesse, Pencil on Paper, 8”x10”
The portrait above is of one of my students named Jesse. Recently, I retired from 15 years of teaching Special Ed and ART in the Vista Unified School District. Whew! Teachers are searchers! Being a teacher in the public school system is an amazing and very valuable experience. You are part of a huge system. You cannot just teach what you want to teach. You have to collaborate, prepare activities that inspire young minds, create rubrics & websites & blogs, manage behavior issues, write reports, call parents, be observed by administrators – just to name a few things. 
 
My last four years were at VIDA (Vista Innovation and Design Academy) a public, magnet middle school in Vista, California. At VIDA, I learned the value of Empathy as a central part of the very creative Design-Thinking Process. Before I was a public school teacher, I was a Teaching Artist who taught a wide variety of students. I was also an assistant teacher for 10 years for the International Louise Hay Teacher Trainings held around the world (Mexico, Italy, England, Canada, Australia, Hawaii and the continental United States). 
 
I used art to engage all kinds of people. I taught drawing to inmates in the Milwaukee County Jail and brought art activities to people with eating disorders, manic depression, schizophrenia, autism, developmental disabilities, traumatic brain injury, homeless, helping each to express themselves creatively. ART searches every kind of brain cell and brings it forward and shares it with the world.
Cindy, Prismacolor Pencil on Rives paper, 6”x9”
Cindy is my life partner. We met in 1993 and got married in 2008, when it became legal in California. Cindy teaches nurses. Together, we help each other to blossom! I am deeply grateful for her love of the home and her marvelous skills in gardening and cooking. She is also a very talented artist.

Isidora Paz Lopez, Ceramist, Mosaicist and Muralist, Tells Her Story

I am a Chilean ceramist, mosaicist and muralist. In the past 5 years my main interest has been to make public art and create community projects.
I am part of the third generation of an artist family. Art has always been present in my life. My grandfather is a great painter, but I cannot say that I was influenced or that I learned from him because there is not too much that we shared.
This black and white photo was taken the first time I met my grandfather. We are in front of the Museum of Fine Arts in Santiago de Chile. He was a professor there when the art school was in the Museum before the Pinochet dictatorship. This is a historical picture — I remember this day. We went inside of the Museum and my mom and grandpa started to remember some histories. In the past he had his studio in the top of this palace, and when my mom was a little girl, she used to spend a lot of time there. She said that this Museum was like her house and she was the princess of this place. So, I started to feel like a princes too.
With my Grandfather Eduardo Martinez Bonati in1982
My grandmother, Carmen Garcia Rodriguez, was also an artist. Unfortunately, shortly before I was born she was killed. Her spirit has been always present in our family and her artwork has been preserved as a treasure. I identify with her a lot.
My mother is a ceramic sculptor, an autodidact multi-faceted artist. She lives in a very special way. She is the kind of person that makes art like a normal ritual of life, making art with the simple things of every day, like her way of presenting food on the table, or arranging her altar, or even her in the clothes she chooses to wear. She is always looking for beauty and esthetic harmony around her, living her life in a very romantic and fanciful way. She was my first “art school”.
Weaving with my beautiful mother, Elisa Martinez Garcia
Our family got split up when the Pinochet dictatorship was in Chile in 1973. Most of the family on my mother’s side moved to Europe. We stayed in Chile and I grew up in those dangerous and chaotic times when cultural development was punished. There was a lot of censorship and limitation for artists because all artists were suspected of being subversive.  It was natural to be a rebel in these circumstances, especially if you have a critical view of society and have chosen to be an artist as an option for life.

My adolescence was very conflictive. I was in crisis with the adult world because of the fake behavior of the adult people, including my parents. During those times seniors disappointed me and I didn’t trust anyone. My friends, artists, and party mates became my family and I started to disconnect from mine and be more on my own. The street was like my second home. I liked to frequent underground clandestine places filled with ambience and freaky people (I still do). For me, at that time, they were more authentic. With them, I felt more affinity and containment. In my teens I was far from what society expects of a good young girl. I felt very marginal, unaccepted, undervalued and unloved.
In the same way that you can make art out of trash, broken tiles, or unexpected materials, making something good out of something useless… art as philosophy of life helped me to survive those difficult moments and turn them in something better. Bad experiences, pain, suffering, loneliness, fears, confusion, depression, all kind of bad feelings can be released through artistic experience. In my case, art has been a great therapy that saved me in many moments, allowing me to recycle emotions, helping me to find my center and in a concrete way led me to realize not to waste my life and instead be useful.
Ceramic Semi-Reliefs in Raku
Since I was born I have never lived in the same house for more than 4 years. With my mom we constantly moved from one place to another. With so many changes of neighborhoods and schools, I got used to leaving people along the way and moving on. When I left my mother’s house at age 19 I continued this gypsy lifestyle. Even though I always wanted to find a place where I could settle down, that did not happen. Now I am 41 years old and I have lived in 26 houses.
Actually I am living in Germany the past 2 – 1/2 years, with my husband and my 3 kids. And what does this have to do with my art?  I mention this to point out that the constancy of making art is the more stable thing I have had throughout my life. To be an artist is the only thing that I always knew for sure about me.
Over my life I have been so many different versions of myself. Even if some of these styles have nothing to do with each other, all these facets were an authentic reflection of the moment that I was living. Some periods were very masculine, others were very feminine, and some periods I was fanatical about exercise. Other times were more mystical and spiritual.
Everything is part of constantly discovering who I am. Unraveling Pandora’s box inside of me is sometimes full of contradictions. But the one part of my identity that doesn’t change is my passion for making art. This is the biggest motivation that I have and is something essential in my growing and my validation as a person.
Two of the principal energies that move my life are art and love. Art is the expression of my spirit, what I try to give… and love is the necessity of my heart, what I try to get. It is not just the money I get paid for my work, it is also the love and gratitude I receive from people. That is food for my ego, but mainly, it is love healing my heart.
 
Because of my work I learned to be proud of the life that I have chosen to live. Art makes me brave as a warrior, fighting for my dreams. So many times I have seen how conservative or normal people have looked down on me because they believe that art is a hobby, not a real profession, and it is even worse if you are a woman. But, as Madonna said in one of her recent speeches, “All these people who have despised me, all those who have put obstacles in my way, they have, in fact, empowered me more and made me stronger”.
Totem, Pirque, Chile, 2009
When I started to study art I didn’t know what specialty to choose, because I liked them all. I liked to paint, to make sculptures and try all different kind of materials. I finally chose ceramics as my specialty, because I could integrate volumetric forms and color at the same time. My work has always been very experimental. I have created sculptures, semi-reliefs in Raku, musical instruments in ceramic and different kind of decorative objects. Sometimes I do small things full of little meticulous detail and other times I make artwork in large formats, like the Totem and my expansive mosaic mural projects.
I like to take on challenges in my work and see what comes out when I make something new. Also, when I like a technique, I try to explore it and use all the possibilities it gives me, trying to improve my skills in every new creation. In artwork, there is always something more to learn and put into practice.
My great aunt, Paulina Concha Bonati, visiting the mosaic mural work
in a metro station in Puente Alto, Chile
It was the year 2011 when I began to do mosaic and I fell in love with the technique. Making mosaic murals in the streets I discovered a new passion for making public art. This experience opened a new dimension of possibilities, giving a turn in my growth as an artist. In 2012 I was commissioned to lead a very large mosaic project, covering 83 pillars and 4 stations at the metro train that crosses Puente Alto.
More than 100 people participated in the creation of 4.000 square meters of that mosaic. It was an extraordinary experience – an intensive work commitment and learning taking nearly two years non-stop, with a lot of gratification after the work was completed.
Mosaics bring benefits that you see over a long period of time. Street art takes part of the identity of a place and inspires the surrounding community. Art integrates and connects people. I really like and enjoy all the phases of community projects. The interaction between artists — learning from each other – the friendship that are built and the union of forces is indescribable. Teamwork is fundamental for make big things and it is a big life-learning lesson too.
I am very thankful for all the opportunities that life has given me as an artist, and for all the wonderful people that I have worked with from my homeland as well as all around the world. Genial artists, lovely friends, fantastic people that have contributed to make great things happen, have all been part of this creative journey I am living.
Mosaic Team, Puente Alto, Chile 2012
Over the last 4 years some of my fantasy projects have materialized and I have achieved much more than I ever expected. This gives me a lot of energy to keep going and strengthens my belief in my creative intuition. My self-esteem and confidence continues to grow like a beautiful lotus flower emerging from the darkness of the past difficult years. And this magical transformation inside of me is still going on. I am continually learning to trust more in the divine force that moves us all.
Thanks to art I have learned to love me and love life more. Being an artist is a big blessing, it gives me hope and strength and desire to share this love with the rest of the world. Because of this I am so fascinated with doing public art. Art for everybody, art that can transform, improve spaces and provoke a a myriad of feelings in people.
Mosaic mural in homage to the Mapuche
Community in Puente Alto, Chile
Life is beautiful, wonderful, and so very generous. Nature is amazing and our human capacities are infinite. Every living being is unique. We are the creators of our lives and our histories, and as free creators we can convert our reality in a positive way, every one of us potentially has this power.
I like to think that I have chosen a good mission because bringing art to the streets is necessary. I think that this world, in the insane times that we are living, needs an urgent change of vision to see life in another way. We need to open our hearts and consciences and stop the destruction. Maybe I am too naive, but I really believe that art can help to change the world for the better.

 

During the making of the mosaic mural Carnival Nymph the wonderful
carnival dancers of San Nicolás visited us, Aruba, 2016

 

Chris Rowe, Mixed Media Artist, Shares Her Story





From early childhood my artistic voice fought to let itself be heard, I wallowed in the pleasure of my first collage of Cinderella going to the ball which was a large mural created jointly with a few other classmates. I still remember the magical feeling of seeing it transform into a thing of beauty before my eyes. At the age of 12 I won a county art competition by designing a Save Energy poster and art continued to be my favourite lesson throughout my school years.  

 
 
However, as time went on my creativeness took other avenues. I was passionate about hair design and became a hairdresser. While raising my daughter, I indulged in sewing and home decor, mostly from necessity. Creating art just for it’s own sake just didn’t seem a priority.
 
 
Everything changed when I obtained my first computer, the web offered me a virtual classroom for art. Suffering from debilitating depression all of my adult life, losing myself in art became my escape when everything else was too difficult.  At the ripe old age of 50 I swallowed every bit of information I could and my pencil became my new best friend. 

My favourite way of expressing myself is by drawing imaginary faces and indulging in my old passion for hairstyles but now by means of a pencil.

 

 

Using my computer means I now have the ability to go a step further and paint some of my artwork digitally. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

​My passion for collage has also been rekindled and I use printouts of some of my hand drawn faces to create new artworks.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I print out previously painted backgrounds and elements, combining everything on paper or canvas board and then I hand paint simple hairstyles.

 

 

 

​Occasionally, I also use acrylic paint pens to add smaller detail.

 

 

 

There are so many variations that I can create using collage and a graphics program that I often combine the two by scanning in a hand collaged piece and then going on to further manipulate the image to create something new.

 

 
 

Susan J. Slack, Teaching and Performing Artist, Tells Her Story

 

“What do you do specifically as a Teaching and Performing Artist?”, is a question hurled my way more than once.

 
“Whatever I can,” I might respond as any working musician/writer/drummer/singer/actor would who needs to pay rent and eventually raise a child. I see little difference among the performing arts. Each one requires ten years of study for proficiency in a given the field. The advantage to having had so many damn birthdays is that I’ve had time to dive deep into several. Here is a little of what Ihave gleaned from the practice of them, although throughout my career they keep bumping into one another. Maybe you would like to try one of these.

 

Acting – Allows me/us to explore other viewpoints, other headspaces for a while. Then through my efforts, hopefull, the story we the actors bring to the audience will inspire or help figure something out. It’s just storytelling. I won awards in Buffalo NY, moved to NYC doing off-off Broadway and touring the southern states. Had my own theater company, “Open Circle Players” and we toured schools in twenty-one Florida counties doing assembly programs and larger reading and family festivals. The test for success in Children’s Story Theatre is laughter. Hint – if all else fails, fall down.

 

 

Singing – one of the best breathing exercises ever. You bet I did the hairbrush microphone-in-the-mirror thing, and then, I got to do it for real! I wore long sparkly dresses and crooned out ballads like a true jazz hipster. (With a bit of my Broadway vocal training in there for belting ’em out.) I recorded two albums of mostly originals Sunrise and Semah, and headed the Susan and the Slack Band, singing in major Western New York venues. I hope someday you get to know how it good it feels to breathe deep and let it come out rich and pretty.

 
Drumming – For me the drums always say to me, “You are home now.” The rhythm is how and why we first gathered as humans. You can reach a deep state of meditation without spacing out if you know any indigenous styles and techniques. I learned and am still learning from Nigeria’s Baba Olatunji, several West African, North and South American, and Middle Eastern teachers; Arthur Hull, Layne Redmond, and Colin Wolcott’s workshops. And I played for a lot of dance classes and professional company concerts, and learned so much about moving by watching as I sang and played for the dancers. And let’s not forget about the glorious hours of ancient, five-part West African drum groups wherein one needs to absolutely give it up to the rhythms and yet be totally present and concentrated. One far-flung thought and you fall out of the tight weave of the polyrhythms. Yes, of course, you can play whatever the heck you want, but for me, this is way more fun.


Dancing – I’ve studied with movement teachers who have expanded my body’s vocabulary tenfold. Instead of only doing what comes natural, I also have some control of arms and torso and feet and can summon up lots of classroom muscle memory whenever the need arises. It means fewer bad habits stuck in my body to cause trouble as those birthdays roll by. Explored techniques: Graham, Hawkins, Cunningham, Middle Eastern, good old modern and ballet. And then there is West African/Caribbean Dunham technique via Miss Katherine Dunham’s colleague, Pearl Reynolds, and other lovely teachers in Tai Chi, mime and currently yoga. There are many neurons throughout the body and they are just as instructive as the brain in governing mood and health. Also, when one body watches another body dance, the watcher gets a huge physiological benefit as well. And when we dance together, well, you tell me.
 

 

 

Writing – Still a performance discipline, but this time, of the mind. This can be practiced anywhere you can hold a pen and notepad. The answer I gave the airplane steward who asked about what writing is like: “It’s like taking drugs because you totally escape into another world and are unaware of time passing, except instead of costing money, you make money.” 

 

I have a blog, Dropping Names, on WordPress, with lots of great stories. I wrote columns and interviews and reviews for several publications. And most impressive to myself, I’ve written two published books, Come Join the Circle, a non-fiction how-to for working with kids with voice, rhythm and movement, and a historical fiction, set in 4th Century BCE Mediterranean (Egypt, Athens, Sparta, Persia), Hidden From the Face of Humans, that took seven years to research. I almost didn’t want to publish it, it was like giving birth when you don’t really want to let go of the relationship, but then the time comes. If you like GoT, this was the real thing. Hope my story has inspired you to get going on your own exploring.

 

Antoine Hunter, Deaf Dancer, Tells His Story

Antoine Hunter – photo credit RJ Muna

 

Most people assume that I picked dance at an early age to have a dance career but that’s not really true. Let me tell you how it all started.
I was born in Oakland, California. I have a hearing family and I was born Deaf. Being an African American Deaf male child was hard. Being Deaf was considered “retarded”. That’s what people called me at a young age. Not my family, but the public did. My family taught me to love who I am and that is what I did. I never let that go. It wasn’t easy.

 

Before and After – photo credit Matt Haber
I was considered an outcast by both hearing people and Deaf people. Most of the time the Deaf didn’t let me in because I wanted to do things hearing people were doing and most Deaf didn’t engage in those same activities because there was no access. Hearing people didn’t let me be a part of their community because I couldn’t hear them. So the reality was, I didn’t have any friends in my life who were truly my friend. I was really lonely. I felt I had no place in the world. I was so sad and even thought about taking my own life. I didn’t, however, because there was something in me saying “If you want something you need to figure out how to get it”.
In the Silence – photo credit Matt Haber
There were a few times when I went to a summer Deaf camp where I put myself out there to help people and they would become my friend. I learned how to make friends. It would be a nice lovely feeling of having a friend but it only lasted the 2 weeks during the camp. When camp was over, there was no way to stay in touch before cell phones were invented and most of the campers lived far away. At the time, I lived in Oakland and those new friends lived in Santa Cruz or Half Moon Bay. That’s really far away from Oakland. So I was lonely, again.
Antoine in Action – photo credit Matt Haber
I was always seeking a way to have a friend. I joined the basketball team and my teammates at my Jr. High School didn’t like me at first. I really knew nothing about basketball yet I wanted to play. I really wanted to do what hearing people do. Watching all the guys working together as a team to win was something I wanted to have in my life. I wanted a team of friends. I would start practice on my own at 6 am at my school basketball court. In time, I got very good at basketball and I became one of the important players on the team. My teammates became my friends, solely at school, but it felt good. However, once Jr. High School was over, I was alone once again.
Mr. Hunter & Zula – photo credit Matt Haber
It was time to move on to high school and I had a chance to visit Skyline High School. Yes, that is the same high school Tom Hanks and Grey Payton went to. Many famous people went to that school. It was a huge school and I was worried. I instinctively knew the bigger the school was, the harder it was going to be to make friends. During my visit to Skyline High School, we had a chance to stop by the dance studio. There I saw a black woman saying 5,6,7,8!
The room was sweaty, the students were turning and jumping, and one thing stood out clearly to me … there were only two guys in dance class! I was thrilled. I thought to myself “well if there’s only one guy or a few guys, these girls would want me to be their friend and be in their dances, or maybe one of them would be my future wife … wait slow down … this would be perfect place to find a date.”  I couldn’t wait to start my first day of school.
Antoine – photo credit Matt Haber
I won’t tell you what year it was but I will tell you it wasn’t the year 2000 yet. Ok, ok, it was 1996! My first dance class I got my sweat gym clothes on and I sat on the floor pushing my legs apart stretching. Trying to do what all these girls were doing. I couldn’t help but to daydream which one would be my wife, I mean my best friend. My dance teacher Dawn James walked in, took roll call, introduced herself and began the warm-up. The warm-up was from hell. Mind you, I was already in shape … don’t forget not only am I a basketball player but I’m also a track runner, a bodybuilder and a swimmer.
Dance class was kicking my butt. These girls were able to do way more sit-ups of all kinds. I couldn’t keep up. My abs were on fire, just burning. My legs were shaking. They did more pushups than me, and it wasn’t even 15 minutes yet. When we got up off the floor, everyone was able to touch the floor and I couldn’t get past my knees. Then the dance started. “Jazz square” Dawn James yelled. My mind was spinning in a circle. “Kick ball change” she yelled. I thought, “oh, imagine I am kicking the ball, oh I can do that”. I was catching on. “Hold up, dang! Did you see how high she just kicked her leg? Almost took my head off,” I thought to myself, if I survive but everyone else was looking at me as if i was the weakest link. I guess I was.
Every day I practiced at home everything I learned from dance class at school. I was focused for many months. At one point I could touch the floor while standing with my leg straight. In the past, I couldn’t get past my knees. In time, I was getting good, good enough that my classmates started to notice me. Even a few of them started saying hi. Still no real friends yet. One day my teacher said we had to work in group, or duet, or work solo to create a dance. I wanted to work in a group but no one wanted to be in my dance. So I created a solo. It wasn’t a one-day creation. It took weeks to figure out what I wanted to do. I decided to dance to Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You.”

 

Antoine with the Musicians – photo credit Matt Haber
When the music started, I began rocking my head side to side as if a boat were rocking me. I grabbed my shoulders as if I were cold and alone in the dark. Then, I let the music take me over, I mean really take over me … I was moving all over the room. I jumped, I rolled, I slid, I reached, fell, I stood up, I was belonging and I was sweaty. Wait, there is more. During the instrumental break of the song, I began to dance as if lightning, fire, wind, water, and finally the earth were attacking me.
I was all needy, feeling and scared but there was freedom and comfort, like angels were dancing with me. When I finished dancing, everyone had so many different expressions on their faces — even before they clapped. Many people told me that they could understand me and feel me from my dance.

 

Crowned King at SF 2017 Carnaval! – photo credit Marco Sanchez
From that day forward, I went on to learn other “languages of dance”— like African, ballet, and so much more. Soon I began to teach these languages to others. Dance is so powerful. It’s given me the power to touch lives.
This story was about my first year in school. At the end of the school year, I had really nice friends. Today I have friends all over the world and really good friends. I always say you only need one friend but sometime dance is so powerful it brings more good people into your life. Dance has the power to bring good people in your life.

 

Antoine Wins the Crown at Carnaval! – photo credit Matt Haber

 

Richard Porter, Photographer, Tells His Story

 

I grew up in Vancouver, Canada – a large ethnically diverse port city on the edge of wilderness. In my family, the free exchange of voices and ideas was always esteemed; compassionate acts, creative indulgence, teamwork, and entrepreneurial boldness were values in action that were encouraged and supported. Creativity almost always had a purpose – it was a talent to be applied to practical problems.
 
 
 
 

 

I have never thought of myself as an artist. I still don’t, really. Richard Porter “the Artist,” is just one of several ways I, and others, conceive me. I am a creative problem solver, and an idea experimenter, and a visioneer, and have been most of my life. Practical problems demand creative solutions. Artistry and art are part of that continuum. I am sometimes all business and sometimes all play – I usually exist somewhere in between. I have rarely created alone, but have almost always been a part of talented teams.
 
 
 
 
It has been through the lens of photography that artistic play has dominated my creative expression, and through which my vision alone has surfaced. I shoot to tell a story; to elicit emotion, as any author would, only with the primitive words of a fragmented moment. The camera, and, nowadays, processing software, become my pen, my brush and my chisel. While the camera documents a moment, there is much the camera does not decide: what to include, what to stage, what to exclude, where to focus, how much focus, what light and how much, point of view, how to compress time, …. In my digital studio, I can demand from the moment its truth as I found it, as I choose to interpret it.
 
 
 

 

Recently, I returned to business school. This meant spending less time with my “big” cameras. In doing so, I found myself using my iphone’s camera and processing images with it more often. I have come to appreciate the unique opportunities and constrained space that iphonography (as it is often called) affords. It has dominated my photography for the last year, and changed the way I use cameras to capture and manipulate images. While there are many apps that apply canned effects to images, I don’t use these. Instead I use an app to manually control the settings for the camera, and one of several apps in post (there is not yet a singular app that does everything Photoshop can do – but we’re almost there).
 
 
 
 

 

 
 
 

Ann Phong, Mixed Media Artist, Tells Her Story

Images attract me. Every since I was young my mother allowed me to walk home from elementary school. Following the path to my house, I wandered through my whole neighborhood. House after house, I peered into people’s windows to see what they cooked, what they were doing and how they talked to each other. When it came time to study, I drew. Images of what I had seen throughout the day materialized and danced in my mind in front of my textbooks. I captured the people and the scenery and illustrated them like storybooks.
From Within, Mixed Media on Wood, 25 x 33
My drawings surprised my parents and my peers. I received praise for my illustrations, and I wanted to be an artist every since then.
Today and Yesterday, Acrylic, 96 x 60
In 1981, I had a chance to escape the Vietnamese Communist Party. After finding refuge in Malaysia and Philippines for a year, I settled down in Southern California. Living through many countries has given me more chances to observe the uniqueness in each culture. These experiences continue enrich my art.
Angel, Mixed Media, 24 x 48 x 3
While studying for my Bachelor’s degree in Fine Art, all the internationally acclaimed artists in the art history classes thrilled me. However, I didn’t want to stay under those big guys’ shadow so I looked for a way out to be myself. This passion sparked my immigrant theme.
Bubbles in the Ocean, Mixed Media, 30 x 40
I love to paint and sculpt. After graduating and receiving my MFA from Cal State University Fullerton, I no longer had a facility to create 3D artwork so I transitioned to integrating 2D and 3D components into my paintings in my small, home studio. I found my path in mixed media painting and have loved it every since.
After Party, Mixed Media
When I sit in front of a blank canvas, my emotions flow in intuitively. Images of my past from Vietnam to America, cascade through my consciousness while my hands paint. Layers of old images are buried under the new memories, like new pages being added to an endless book.
Splash, Mixed Media, 8 x 8
About a decade ago, my motivation to create changed. Seeing endless news segments, articles, and pictures of the trash we as humans leave behind filled me with sadness but also added a desire to help. It seemed like the more convenient we make our lives, the bigger the cost it has had on our environment.
Floating, Mixed Media, 7 x 24
Old appliances, used toys, and plastic grocery bags are cut into a multitude shapes and sizes to form my work. The original shapes of those objects are no longer recognizable. What was once waste is now art and a representation of what could happen if we do not learn to consider our planet first.
Human Traces on Earth #3, Mixed Media, 20 x 20
The juxtaposition of straight lines and shapes in composition versus the organic curved ones represent different aspects of nature and manmade forms.
Run #2, Acrylic on Canvas, 60 x 48
During the process of creating, I look at my surroundings and use old household products and other refuse as part of my work. When the visual part flows with my feelings, it’s time for the actions to stop.
Every time I sit in front of the canvas it is a new challenge. I don’t lay down a sketch and paint. I have a general idea of what I want then start adding objects and applying pigments. Occasionally the subject, form, and content flow well together. However, most of the time they do not. Colors, lines, shades, and shapes all fight on the surface of my paintings. Sometimes it is so jarring that I must step back and wait for everything to calm down. But when everything lines up and the piece is complete, I get a sense of completeness and accomplishment that money could never buy.
Fragile Nature, Mixed Media, 20 x 40

Michele Grace Lessirard, Astrologist, Healer & Teacher, Tells Her Story








Those little pots of color are magical to me when my first paint by numbers kit arrives; except I break the rules by blending the colors and painting outside the lines. Back then Mrs. Gentry was the traveling art teacher, going from school to school teaching art. It was pure magic when she came into the room. She inspired me! When I grow up I’m going to be like Mrs. Gentry. 

 

 




At eight years old I knew what I wanted. I was the artist in the family. I loved creating.  At ten, cutting images out from my mom’s Lady’s Home Journal and Sears Catalog, I collaged my first book in a simple spiral notebook titled Who I want to be when I grow up. Teacher. Wife. Mother.
 
 
 

 

 

 

 

In high school this new product came out called acrylic modeling paste. It was 1973.  The teacher said “see what you can make.”  I paint a three dimensional image of the bamboo sticks I see leaning against the wall. Art is play. That bamboo painting won my first competition. Then I made my art fit into a job. I became very corporate, did interior design for restaurant and hotels, starting my own business at age 24. I lost the connection to my artist within by trying to fit in.

 

Remember Richard Dreyfuss in Close Encounters? Twenty plus years later after I’m so corporate and spiritually bankrupt I experience a series of spiritual openings that knock for me a loop. Dreams lead me to the path of direct revelation aka shamanism; one of those life changing moments where you can never go back. It was art as a spiritual experience, with a higher order.  I found the book Soul Retrieval by Sandra Ingerman and decided that’s what I wanted to do: healing trauma through spiritual means. “Where have I lost power and how is it effecting me today?”




 

 
After my own soul retrieval, my creativity came roaring back. I went home from the five-day training reborn. A woman on fire, I found two sawhorses and an old door in the garage that I set up as my art table. The makeshift studio took over our living room; at the same time gathering up 15 years of unfinished art projects scattered all over our house, in many closets. Maybe you can relate? I called back my artist within and never looked back.

 




Art is play. When it doesn’t and feels like a challenge, I get bored. I don’t spend time growing it into something commercial. If it’s play and fun I do it. If feels gets heavy I let it go. I dabble. Come back and play some more. I used to feel a lot of guilt over the inconsistency. Then I read the book Refuse to Choose by Barbara Sher; I’m a scanner. A plate spinner scanner meaning I like to do a lot of things; then I get bored and move on. I may come back. I may not. No shame, I’d rather live my life from a place of granting myself permission to explore.


 

 

 
What I do come back to again and again is collage. SoulCollage®.
I love the process developed by Seena Frost and trained as a facilitator in 2007.





If something is bothering me, I cut and paste. Collage.  If I want to manifest something…I cut and paste. If a client has a problem I ask them to cut and paste. Just ‘throw an image at it!” Then we talk.
Images speak to me and through me as a shamanic healer, astrologer and artist.
Today, I teach you how to find the mystery of you, using paper and glue, through the New Moon and SoulCollage® process.
 
 
Bright blessings,
Rev. Michele Grace Lessirard
Artist. Astrologist. Teacher. Healer.

Michael Manthey, Jewelry Alchemist, Tells His Story

 

 

From early childhood I had a curiosity where things came from and how they were made. I found that almost everything comes out of the ground to feed, clothe, shelter, and transport us. So I developed a trust with rocks and their knowledge, learned skills to transform them, and found that some rather beautiful and difficult things can be made in a surprisingly short time.

 

The decision to become a professional artist came at age forty while I was recovering from a broken neck injury. The discovery that the creative process gave me a vision of a goal beyond myself saved my sanity and my spirit. I am forever grateful for that.

 

My contact with the craft of jewelry came when Avishai Greis of Aion Manufacturing cast my first carved waxes into silver. Because he liked my designs, he offered me a traditional apprenticeship in his workshop. Avishai was trained by a Russian jeweler so I became part of a long tradition — the craft of fire and metal, crystals and gems.

 

When I started to show my work at local and regional art & craft shows, patrons began commissioning ornaments to commemorate the important moments in their lives, from birth to death. I was asked to create symbols of beauty and durability, a source of joy forever. Trust is an important factor in this craft, not only for the tangible wealth, but also because patrons share their dreams, aspirations, hopes and visions with me. The artist becomes historian of these times as future generations pass on these ornaments, and the stories that come with them. I work alone in my studio, I do not have a production line, I do strictly one-of-a-kind and commission work. I cut and carve my own stones, and have made wedding bands from meteorite, amulets for pregnancy, a magic wand, and turned ancestors gold fillings into treasured family heirlooms.

 

So, that said, I would like to use this opportunity to shed some light on a question many people have: What makes artists tick? If we look back in history at a civilization where we do not know the language, customs, and religion, what is left to look at is the artist’s art. So artists are really historians who record dreams, aspirations, fears and hopes. This influence encourages us to use creative alternatives that work well and are needed to balance the precarious situation the status quo has led us to.

 

I would like to share some of my most favorite quotes with you. They range from Astronomer Johannes Kepler, 1619, to the Chinese dissident artist, Ai WeiWei, 2013.
“Throughout history aesthetic revolution has always been a harbinger of social revolution, that changes in the way artists portray reality lead inevitably to the changes in the way the common people think and behave.” Quote from the book, Hanging Man: The Arrest of Ai WeiWei by Barnaby Martin

 

“Artistic vision is a label for a difficult-to-define combination of close attention, perception, understanding, intuition, and ambition, and none of that counts for much unless it is combined with remarkable execution, or the communication of that vision.” Quote from Astronomer Johannes Kepler, 1619
“In a work of art there is a kind of merging between the precision of poetry and the excitement of pure science … and the greater one’s science, the deeper the sense of mystery.” Quote from A Muse and a Maze: Writing as Puzzle, Mystery, and Magic by Peter Turchi
“Shapes are in the archetype prior to their being in the product, in the divine mind prior to being in creatures, differently indeed in respect to their subject, but the same in the form of their essence.” Quote from Kepler’s Philosophy and the New Astronomy by Rhonda Martens
“We work in the dark, we do what we can, we give what we have. Our doubt is our passion and our passion is our task. The rest is the madness of art.” Quote from Henry James’ novel, The Middle Years
Out yonder is this huge world, which exists independently of us humans, and stands before us like a great, eternal riddle, at least partially accessible to our inspection and thinking. The contemplation of this world beckons as a liberation. The road to this paradise has shown itself reliable, and I have never regretted having chosen it.

Karen Arango, Photographer, Tells Her Story

 

“Who are they?” My mother had asked my father, “Stay in the car and be calm, everything will be okay”, he said.
Colombian Mountains
As the men approached the car, everyone panicked. I did not know what was happening; with one and a half years of age I was too young to be aware. We were taken up in the mountain, guns were pointing at us and the men kept saying disgusting comments about raping the women in my family. My sister crying, my brother scared, my mom praying, and my dad waiting for a miracle to happen, all while the delinquents discussed where they would throw our bodies after being assassinated. We couldn’t speak, or defend ourselves, all we could do was stay together and wait for it to be our time to die; we had been kidnapped.
This happened in the early 1990’s, when the war and delinquency was at a peak because of the Pablo Escobar movement in Medellin, Colombia. We used to live two blocks away from his home and every time a bomb would go off I would cry, the sound was overwhelming, the walls and windows of my home would slightly shake, just as a mild earthquake. This war took many lives; my brother even told me that he would see dead bodies along the street on the way to his school in the morning. In Medellin we always had to be alert, we knew the delinquency was high, and kids would get kidnapped and taken into prostitution often. We couldn’t trust many people. My mom had to fire a babysitter because she tried to abduct me while I was still a toddler; thankfully, my mother stopped her before she got on the bus to leave with me in her arms.
While growing up, I felt that I was different from my friends at school. I suffered from anxiety and was easily frightened by loud sounds, thunder, arguments, and yelling. I was often called a crybaby by my siblings, I think they are supposed to do that anyways. Everyday, as I came home from school my mother always asked me if a man had touched my private parts, this was to make sure no man tried to take advantage of me and for me to know that I had to say something in case it happened.
When I was about 7 years old, I remember going home from school in the bus. The strong gasoline smell of the bus made me nauseous and as the bus stopped at a red light, I saw a face filled with dirt, sadness, and hunger. It was a young girl, soliciting money as her mother did the same. I stared at her and she noticed me, we made eye contact for a couple of seconds. The light changed to green and the bus took me home. Our visual interaction sparked a quality in me I didn’t know I had. I had felt compassion for this girl, her sadness had overwhelmed me.
At some point, due to the dirty business of one of my distant family members got in, my family began to get threats from criminals. My dad had to gather a lot of money from his company of industrial machinery, which was a disgrace to the economy in my family, to pay delinquents, drug traffickers, and scammers or they would kill us all. Our life surrounded by scams, threats, and insecurity gave my dad no choice but to immigrate to the United States, where his family would be safe, and have a better life.

 

Abkhazian refugees living in Tbilisi, play in the refugee building granted by the government

 

As we arrived here, I felt lonely. I missed seeing the kids playing on the streets and I thought people were very isolated, always hiding inside their home. The language barrier didn’t help to make friends; it was easier to connect with kids who spoke the same language as I did. If I found someone who was also from Colombia it was as if I had found gold. We could talk about similar customs, food, and tell stories of our lives back home.
Shortly, after moving to the United States my parents separated; my mother was not willing to take any more of my dad’s male chauvinism. She was in a place of freedom and she could raise her children without worrying about the safety issues we had back in Medellin, or the fact that my dad would take us away from her. Due to the expiration of our Visa I was not able to go back home to visit my father, and he did not come back to visit us until seven years later.
I witnessed my mom work three jobs, and not make enough money to pay the rent. Some months, she would have to borrow money from friends. She was tired, we were surviving, and I was getting an education, still sensitive to loud noises and getting nervous easily. At times, I had to stay home alone after school; my siblings were also in school and my mom was working, I would be scared that immigration would come to take me and deport us back to Colombia.

 

Xiomara is 9 years old. Her mother and father are from Peru.
Her mother was deported when she was 3 years old.

 

As a child that was used to having many luxuries, including art materials, it was challenging to not have these things anymore. It was more important to have food on our plates, and a roof top over our head. We got used to the life in the United States, I slowly learned the language and my interest in art still sparked. I remember getting a set of colored chalks for a birthday once, I barely used them and I didn’t want them to be gone. Then, I began using disposable cameras that my sister would buy, and my mom had some professional cameras they had brought from Colombia.
When in high school I began to reflect about my future; I knew I wanted to be somebody and get an education. After trying different things I decided that I would do photography. My mom supported me, she always told me I could be whatever I wanted. My dad did not find out until my second year of college, he still had the old school mentality that you could not make a living with a career focused in art. My mom had been my hero and my inspiration to be the best I could. In my mind, if she had raised three kids alone in a foreign country, then everything done with a kind heart and hard work was possible.
While in college, I found my interest in art and it was a time to discover myself and what triggered my passion to take photos. The subject of culture, people and stories highly intrigued me, and I realized the great influence my past experiences had on my art. I got drawn into helping others in need, and my art took another level. I was motivated to stand out from my other classmates, and took opportunities I never thought possible.
The first time I had the chance to go back to Colombia and see my family I decided to go alone. I was already overcoming my fears and timidness, or maybe the love to see my family again gave me the courage to go back to the country I had left twelve years ago. I remember day-dreaming that one day I would arrive home from school on my birthday, and I would find all my family: aunts, uncles, cousins, siblings waiting for me as I arrived.
David, outside my uncle’s home
During that trip to Colombia, I met David, his nickname was “Gamin”, slum dog in English, and the direction of my artwork took a turn. One morning, David and I ate breakfast together. He seemed quiet, shy, and he was thin too. My aunt sat next to me as I ate my arepa, or corn cake, and she began to tell me his story. “He works around the neighborhood, for a couple of coins” she said. “He helps your uncle with some errands. Your uncle gives him work to do because he has a mother and a younger sibling and they are extremely poor. He works so they can have food to eat, but he never knows if he will have food to eat the next day”, she continued. My family would give him food and money, it was the least they could do. As she was telling me the story David would look at me with guarded eyes. As my aunt finished the story I could feel the tears coming, I held them in, I didn’t want him to feel bad. Therefore, I looked at my empty plate, got up to take it to the sink and I said to my aunt out loud, “Thank you”. I was thanking her for my food, but at that point, I couldn’t hold my tears anymore; I was thanking God for giving me the wonderful life I had.
The first time I traveled overseas to Europe, through a college program, it completely opened my perspective in the world. I learned about how much I enjoyed learning about people and lifestyles. I was already working on my “Miss Behave” series, about girls who are born in the US of Latin American parents. I began to take on projects that were related to my past experiences, either with immigrants, refugees, and the abused. As my projects kept evolving I realized that as I learned about people’s stories they were being a reflection of who I was and it became a healing process for myself.
Georgian Refugee sits at her home while her daughter tells the story of how they
immigrated to Georgia on foot for a month
I could say with certainty that my past has very much helped shape my future, who I am and what I do today. My experiences in early childhood made me scared, timid, and anxious; as I matured I realized that if I did not take risks and do things myself no one else would do them for me. I decided to overcome my shyness, and my noise trauma. I learned to be more trusting, sometimes more than I should, but I became a better person than who I could have been if I had not determined myself to overcome these barriers. Photography was one motivation for me to do this; it pushed me to be social, open minded, and my ability to sympathize with other people’s feelings helped me get closer to the subjects in my photos.
Georgian vendor in the outskirts of Tbilisi
I realized that if my craft was not used for a good cause either to inspire or help others it had no purpose. Then I discovered that by telling stories and by photographing people in the most dignifying way; I could allow the viewer to connect to the person in the photo, the way I was able to do it. For the first time, I felt I could express myself and share my experiences with others and through others. All that anxiety became my fuel to explore beyond, and I became curious of the all I could experience through the use of my camera.

Dwayne Scheuneman, Dancer, Tells His Story

When I was 15 years-old, or 20, or 25 even, if someone would have told me I would be a professional dancer one day, I would surely have thought they were crazy. If they had gone on to say not just a professional dancer, but a professional dancer who uses a wheelchair, I would have recommended a good psychiatrist to them.
On July 4th, 1995, I dove into a pool, hit my head on the bottom and broke my neck, leaving me paralyzed from the chest down. Many thoughts ran through my mind the following weeks and months, none of which included me traveling the world performing and teaching dance. I did however begin competing in wheelchair track and field. After literally going in circles (on the track) for four years, I decided to spend an off-season doing something different, with full intentions of returning to competitions the following summer. I met a woman who offered to teach me to dance.
We began meeting once a week, working on some basic Ballet for wheelchair users. Soon we got a call from Disney World in Orlando asking us to perform at one of their events. We put a duet together and that, just 4 months into my introduction to dance, was my very first dance performance. I remember the feeling of accomplishment I got as the audience showed their appreciation with a roaring applause. I also remember how many people came up to me and told me how inspired they were by the performance. This feeling and interest in motivating others launched me into seeking out more disabled adults and children and using dance to show them that anything is possible. Four years later I started REVolutions Dance, an inclusive dance program for adults and children with and without disabilities. I began showing up at local Ballet and Modern dance classes and going to dance festivals trying to learn as much as possible. Now, fifteen years later, my racing chair still hasn’t made its way back to the track.

 

The focus of REVolutions Dance is to bring disabled and non-disabled people together in a creative environment that encourages a deeper understanding of each other and their communities. Since creating it, I have been invited as guest teacher and performer at many universities and dance companies across the United States. REVolutions Dance has also performed and taught internationally, visiting places such as Russia and Palestine where we visited schools and communities that had virtually no form of social inclusive events or opportunities for disabled citizens.
Currently we have an ongoing children’s dance class in Tampa that has children with a variety of experiences including Autism, Spina-Bifida, Cereal Palsy and non-disabled students as well.  All taking dance class together, all of them learning from each other. In the spring we are returning to Russia and we are looking into other international outreach opportunities.

Before breaking my neck, I was working for UPS in Buffalo New York. I had a stable, well-paying job, comfortable home and a secure future. I would’ve been content living that life for the rest of my days, not knowing the art and creativity that was welling inside me looking for an outlet. If I were to go back in time, to that moment when I was standing on the edge of that diving board, and a little angel appeared on my shoulder and said “if you dive in that pool, you’re going to break your neck and go through a lot of pain and suffering, but in the end, this is the life you will have”, I would take a deep breath … and jump.

Susan Carlson, Mixed Media Quilt Artist, Tells Her Story

Tickled Pink, 64 x 42 inches, fabric

 

At seven years old I knew when I grew up I wanted to be an artist, a veterinarian, or a teacher.
Now I’m a fiber artist making quilts of animals and teaching others to do what I do. That willful seven year-old still lives in me. She’s the one I rely on to make sure I’m following my dreams.
It wasn’t a straight line. Sure, I went to art school, but I studied illustration, not fiber, at the Maryland Institute College of Art. For that part of my education, I attended the Meta Carlson Studio of Fabric Creations (aka my mama’s sewing room). Fabric had always been an element of my world, like oxygen. I twisted college assignments in order to complete them using fabric.
Another part of my early upbringing was selling hand-made items in my parents’ seasonal home business, “The Craft Cellar.” My mom made spice trivets and table runners and such. My dad was a woodworker. I painted and stamped and stenciled their work as well as helping to create other knick-knacks and tchotchkes. Producing work to sell is what I was familiar with.
I spent the first half of my full-time art career making art quilts to sell. In the beginning I was thrilled to have found an outlet for my creativity. Eventually, I learned that when I paired those two aspects — making and selling — neither was completely satisfying. Making art to sell became repetitive. Instead of creating the quilts I was really interested in, I was making quilts to sell.

 

Dixie Dingo Dreaming, 48 x 48 inches, fabric

 

My art soon became less fulfilling because I was creating versions of the same quilts over and over again.
Selling quilts also became less fulfilling. That’s weird, huh? As long as I was getting paid, what would it matter if the sale was fulfilling. However, since I was putting my whole self into whatever I made, especially the larger and more unique quilts, I grew attached to them. They became family members. Their value to me couldn’t be calculated in dollars. When they sold, the money disappeared into my bank account and was disbursed each month to pay bills. If it weren’t for the fact that the electricity was still on you wouldn’t have even known I was making quilts.

 

Golden Temple of the Good Girls, 50 x 58 inches, fabric
Then in 1994, I was asked to teach a class at Portsmouth Fabric Company in Portsmouth, NH where I worked as manager. I taught students my way of doing fabric collage at that time. I work differently now, though the basics remain the same: cut fabric to shape, tack down with glue, repeat until desired image is achieved.
Over the next couple years, I taught a few more classes there and at other regional quilt shops and guilds. Eventually my quilts were featured in national quilting magazines and I received invitations to teach and lecture on a national and then international basis. Two books, Free Style Quilts: a No-Rules Approach in 2000 (out of print) and Serendipity Quilts: Cutting Loose Fabric Collage in 2010, helped to spread my name around.

 

Samuelsaurus Rex, 48 x 40 inches, fabric

 

Teaching has grown to be a larger part of my career. I’m away from my home and studio for weeks at a time. Ironically, and in contradiction to Mr. Shaw’s opinion, the blossoming of my teaching career has coincided with the blossoming of my art.
Income from teaching allows me to create only the quilts I want to without a thought as to whether they will sell. In fact, I haven’t tried to sell a quilt in years. Instead, the quilts I make promote my teaching through blog and magazine features, art shows, lectures and exhibitions.
Now, after years of holding onto my quilts, I have gathered a body of work I will be premiering in a special exhibit at this year’s International Quilt Festival in Houston. Entitled Specimens, the show will feature eleven of my large animal quilts, including the (almost) 22-foot long “Crocodylus Smylus.”

 

Crocodylus Smylus, 21 feet 6 inches x 70 inches, fabric
 
But teaching is more than a means to an end. I wouldn’t want anyone to get the impression that teaching is a sort of bitter main course I have to swallow in order to get to the dessert of studio time. While I still sometimes dread the stress of travel — missed connections, hit-or-miss food — I truly enjoy teaching.
I hope (and am told) that my art touches people in important ways. I’m fairly certain that for many my pieces expand the definition of quilts from craft into the realm of art. And as an unabashed animal lover, the message of my art is clear. As one person said upon seeing my quilt “Polka Dodo,” “I’ve known about dodos, but I’ve never really thought about them before.” I hope many feel that way about all of my “Specimens.”

 

Polka Dodo, 40 x 44 inches, fabric

 

Teaching takes my influence to a personal level. While working in my studio, I listen to podcasts that talk about finding your purpose and your mission in life. They ask, what can you do make a difference in the world? The feedback I get from students is about how my classes free them up artistically. They’ve been able to take something that’s been in their head and manifest it into art. They are amazed and proud at what they accomplish. It changes them. I think about that when I get tired of traveling and just want to be home with my family and pets. When I’m in the middle of my classroom, experiencing my students’ energy and their insights, it keeps me going.

Lin Oakerson, Photographer, Tells Her Story

 
 
 
 
 
 
Since the age of seven a camera has been an integral part of my life. Through the lens I view, record and understand the world around me. I have always been a visual person and appreciate beauty everywhere and in everything. Photography allows me to totally occupy and honor the present moment.
 
 
Sheri
 
 
I photograph across many genres but have always had an affinity for portraiture because it’s an interdependent and collaborative experience. There is a fundamental freshness, vulnerability and openness about it that I love. It’s also freeing to find myself more attached to the “dance” of it with the other person and less attached to the outcome. With this in mind the outcome takes care of itself. Both my subjects and I mutually surrender to the process of discovery during a session. 
 
 
 
 
Sharon and Strider
 
 
In this photograph of Sharon and Strider the image does not fully reveal the interesting story within the story. Sharon and I were in the woods doing a study of her when Strider, a local dog unknown to us, appeared seemingly out of nowhere and in our frame. His size and bigger-than-life presence frightened Sharon but as he relaxed and got comfortable in our little space, so did she. It was a beautiful thing to behold. She went from being tense and uneasy to totally letting go. It just unfolded in front of me. They worked it out with each other and this image transpired. Viewers often think it’s a portrait of a woman and her beloved dog.
 
 
 
Agnes
 
 
For decades I processed and printed my own black and white film and prints. There’s nothing quite like the aroma of Dektol to keep you happily absorbed and firmly rooted making magic, hour upon hour, in the darkroom!
 
Then, the emerging digital revolution hit hard and it was a very humbling experience. It hijacked photography as I knew it. I felt like I was accomplished in the medium and resented that I had to start all over again: new equipment, post production programs and classes, lots of classes. It was like learning to speak a new language. I was slow to embrace it but for the past 12 to 15 years I have been exclusively a digital photographer.
 
Typically I allow myself at least 35 to 50 exposures before I feel a session is anywhere near complete. On occasion my favorite image is the first spontaneous photo made in a study, as in this portrait of Paule. But sometimes it’s the last photo, signaling the session has concluded.
 
Paule
 
I’ve had formal training in both photography and video production and they each inform the other in delicious ways. I am keenly aware of composition when shooting video and have always loved the sense of motion in photographs. My portraits sometimes feel like stills from a film, a small slice of the continuum of my subjects’ lives. I often find the images that remain in my mind’s eye after seeing a beautiful film are the faces, portraits that reveal the inner world of the characters.
 
 
Mother and daughter
 
I enjoyed a very rewarding 30 year career in K-12 public education with Fairfax County Public Schools in Northern Virginia, just outside Washington, DC. The years spent with my high school photojournalism students were some of my most rewarding. After retiring I went on to work with individuals who were blind or had low vision. As an Orientation and Mobility Instructor I taught safe and independent travel skills to adults and children.
 
 
 
 
Brandon and Kristina
 
 
In this photograph of Brandon and Kristina, I was touched by how totally present they were in this moment, appreciating the warmth of the sun’s radiating energy on their bodies and sidewalk. They are both totally blind. Vision is certainly a sense associated with our eyes, but it’s also felt and perceived on many differing pathways to the brain.
 
Thank you, Brenda Smoak, for featuring me in your stimulating Artists Tell Their Stories blog. I have found much inspiration in your weekly features.
My photographic muses are many: Judy Dater, Imogene Cunningham, Emmit Gowin, Mary Ellen Mark, Diane Arbus, Joyce Tenneson, Ruth Bernhard and so many others who have come before.
 
 

Carole Stevens Bibisi, Author, Artist & Poet, Tells Her Story

 

Kia ora, hello, my name is Carole Stevens Bibisi. I was born and raised in Invercargill, the southernmost city in the beautiful South Island of New Zealand, and many years later, I moved to Australia. The Bibisi name was added in 2002 when I moved to America in 2002 to marry my sweetheart!
Metamorphosis
I trained in Art College in New Zealand, studying Lettering, Illustration, and Design. Over the years I have gained a wealth of artistic experience, having earned my living working for major advertising agencies, newspapers and a chain of fashion stores as their advertising and display manager.I especially enjoyed creating fashion drawings for newspapers and window display art.
Earth Angel
My primary source of design, passion, and inspiration comes from animals and nature, and my deep yearning to manifest God’s harmonic spirit of unconditional love and beauty, as it lives in me, and works through me in perfect harmony. Yes! The human and divine duality that occurs when our combined energy blends together in a lush palette of intoxicating rainbow colors, as we joyfully become co-creators of healing and peace on earth!
My art illustrations are inspired by not only my love for animals but also rainbows and stained glass windows. My art chose me to give life to mandalas, mermaids, angels, goddesses, and cats. The love of vibrant rainbow colors shows in everything I create. My medium is Prismacolor pencils, paints and markers.

 

Sad Mermaid
As a mother of three grown children and a grandmother of five, I became inspired to write children’s books. My first book Tails of American Bronte was published in 2007. There’s a load of black cat magic in this delightful ‘Tail’ of adoption. My sweetheart of a darling black cat, Miss Bronte, who has tons of cattitude, was my muse. In 2017 Miss American Bronte joined her pals over at Rainbow’s Edge.

 

Flowers and Friends
Kids give Bronte 4 Paws Up, and a percentage of books sold helps support animal rescue. I enjoy book signing events and am an outspoken advocate for promoting lucky black cat adoptions. My second book in the American Bronte series is, Bronte’s Alphabet. Another book I created, The Rainbow’s Dream and Song, is a colorful story of life’s lessons learned from the Rainbow.

 

Carole’s Books
I am an accomplished musician; a singer, teacher and pianist, who graduated to the highest level in theory of Music and Pianoforte, passing final examinations with Merit and Honors, through London’s Trinity and Royal Schools of Music. After moving to Australia to further my musical career, I enjoyed sharing my love of music by becoming a singing teacher and tutoring vocal workshops. My own album, a CD entitled Sophisticated Lady was recorded in Australia. Sophisticated Lady features a repertoire of jazz standards, soulful ballads, and songs from the musicals I have performed in with Duo’s, Trios, larger bands and orchestras around New Zealand, Australia, and locally in Sarasota and Bradenton, Florida. One notable highlight was being chosen to sing with an American Choral group at Carnegie Hall in New York City. The CD and books are all featured on my websiteshould you possess a little black cat curiosity!
Lucky Black Cats
“It’s our choice to live in the bright rainbow of our hopes, and not the dark clouds of our fears.” May you be a loving contributor through art and music, to world peace, joy and healing.

Marcos Smyth, Ephemeral Sculptor, Tells His Story

 

 

After many years of working with welded metals, creating sculptures, I returned to working with wood and mixed media. Driftwood that I collected on walks along the Potomac River shores held a fascination that spoke to me. These forms suggested relationships to each other that inspired me to assemble them into abstract structures.
As negative spaces emerged in these structures, I incorporated other materials to enhance the form and add structural strength. Copper sheet has been a favorite material for the negative spaces. This became a very satisfying alternative to welded sculpture as my current studio was not fireproof.

 

 

 

Some of the wood I found on the Potomac, near my home in Fairfax County, Virginia, was too large and cumbersome to transport easily. I was also running out of room in my yard, so I started assembling structures on site by the river. It was gratifying to work with the materials where I found them, and to relate the sculptures to the surrounding environment. The Zen experience of meditation and “mindfulness,” allowed me to respond to the materials, the site, and harmonize with Nature.
These works were temporary and meant to eventually fall apart and be reabsorbed into the environment from which the materials came.  I made a point not using hardware to minimize the impact on the site. This also precluded the need for storage, rendering the works ephemeral in nature and saved only through photographs and documentation.

 

A few years ago, an article in the Washington Post, about an artist building a “shipwreck” out of driftwood, caught my attention. Robin Croft was also sculpting ephemeral works in natural settings not too far from where I lived. He was approachable and very receptive to collaborating. Working together made it possible to work faster and bigger, thus supporting each other’s vision. We shared concern for migrants who were being victimized by smugglers and by countries where they were not welcome. (A link to the Washington Post story is at the end of this blog post).

 

Drowning Refugee, Smyth & Croft, Potomac River
One of our projects was a group of figures walking through the water, at high tide, as if reaching the shore. They could also be seen as marching on Washington, D.C., up river in the near distance. Our most recent project responded to the thousands of refugees drowned in the Mediterranean trying to reach a better life. We created a figure’s arm and head rising up from the water at high tide signaling for help.
Our collaborative work starts by sharing ideas and agreeing on a theme and site for our project. A sketch will often elaborate on the general structure. When our site is on the Potomac River, the tides are an important consideration since there is a three to four foot affect on water level. Most works on this site are built at low tide so that it stands in water during high tide.

 

 

 

Collecting driftwood up and down the shore is our first job. Any wood we can carry and use is piled at our site.  Heavy logs “planted” in the gravel anchor the structure. By tying smaller driftwood with sisal cord and weaving additional materials to the anchor, we build a structure that hopefully will survive the rise and fall of the river for a while. Our river site is visible from the George Washington Parkway between Alexandria and Mount Vernon in Virginia.
We are planning on a new project this summer in a young grove of trees near the water. It will be one of Robin’s “ghost ships.” This site is not visible from the Parkway. We plan on giving the coordinates for those interested in GPS hunts. We’ve had some articles written about our work, so we may get some coverage again.

 

 

This summer, I will be installing a welding studio in my backyard, where I can again safely work with metals without burning my house down. Though I will continue to collaborate with Robin and work with wood, I look forward to being able to use the full range of my skills on other works. I am developing some ideas that will combine wood and welded steel, which may be a possible evolution of my forms.

 

 

Judith Peck, Painter, Tells Her Story

 

 

I first started to use wooden cradled boards as a support in addition to the primed linen that most painters use, years ago.  I realized it opened up more possibilities and I began to carve into and apply other materials to the rigid surface.
The Winding Path

 

Urban Dream

 

 

Steeled1

 

I’ve always been inspired to paint the strength that humanity often shows when responding to societal challenges. The first “broken painting” I did was a very personal piece. I painted it around 1987. It was about two of my grandparents leaving behind their former life and coming to America and safety, each as orphans. I used the plaster shards to represent the broken world they left behind but always carried with them.

 

Black & White

 

 

Pendulum

 

 

The Seed of Change

 

 

Pulled Over