A Worried Mind

Tonight was a struggle. I started and tossed aside several drawings, unable to find my artistic mojo. I spent the day on the phone with my sisters, our Dad is still having issues from the fall he had last month, in the last twenty-four hours he has been struggling with a great deal of confusion. In the end we discovered that he was suffering from several of the side effects from a new medication. I find myself again feeling frustration, guilt, and a tremendous amount of worry. It is frustrating not being near when my Dad is not well, and as I have mentioned previously my sisters are carrying a heavy load, I feel terrible that I am not there to help. When we made the decision to move to California we didn’t imagine what the future would and could hold. All of that worry got in the way of my creativity. As the evening wore on I tried several ideas, what I ended up with was a simple line drawing of a pot of flowers, and another quite small recycling project. Several weeks ago I had purchased some goat Brie cheese in a circular wooden container. When we were through I kept the container, it’s a bad habit of mine, again with the “I’ll do something with it” notion in the back of my head. As I was putting my pen away I saw the container, which is circular, and thought, “Man in the Moon”. I scanned it into my computer and added a few effects. Not sure what I’ll do with it, but it was fun and took my mind off things for a bit. My second passion, which is cooking, comes easy to me and relaxes me, so a photo of a small plate that we snacked on this evening.  Homemade pesto, peperonata, and sun-dried tomato pesto, with a goat/cream cheese mixture and some crostini. Delicious! Hopefully my Dad will be more himself tomorrow, and I can get back to work.8 31 (1)

8 31 (3)

8 31 (2)

My Head Is In The Clouds

8 30 13 (14)Here we go again, but when you see the photographs I took today you won’t blame me in the least. I actually took more than one hundred (although I will only post a few), and to tell you how wonderful my husband is, Dan drove me around to find the best shots. I did thank him for his support of the Arts. Incredibly I was here in Temecula taking photos of the sky outside the library when I received a text from my sister, Colleen, outside of Chicago, it was actually a couple of photos…of a beautiful sky. Although in her case it was the beginning of a bad storm. Colleen and I are only fifteen months apart in age (good Irish Catholic parents), we have been called Irish twins, we are also the two middle children, so I think we somehow ended up on the same wave length. Later in the evening they had a spectacular sunset so she sent me a photo of that as well.

I wasn’t completely happy with my painting last night. I rushed once again, when what I should have done was just laid the groundwork. That’s what I’m doing tonight. I did a pencil sketch of a painting that I want to do, based on one of the photos from today. I had mentioned a couple of months ago that I realized that I didn’t need to get a piece fully completed every day, the purpose of this project is just to create every day. I seem to be fine doing that with non-painting projects, but with most of my paintings I am still struggling to find the patience that I need to build things slowly. That has to be my focus from now on or I won’t like anything I do. I also felt like my style was improving, and last night the work seemed too “old school” me. I am going to let that painting sit for a few days and take a second look at it. For once the feelings I’m having aren’t about not being good enough, but rather feeling disappointed that I didn’t see the growth in that piece that I’ve seen in others. But I guess that realization is growth enough in itself.

And now for a few photos from today.8 30 13 (132)

8 30 13 (187)

8 30 13 (188)

Heavenly Inspiration

Heavenly Inspiration, And A Reason To Celebrate, was what I was going to name this post, but decided it was much too long. I’ll start with the first part.


Long after I’m gone I think one of the things my children will remember most about me is my never-ending, “Look at the sky.”  “Did you see those clouds?” “Isn’t it beautiful?” I love a beautiful sky, a sunrise, a sunset, and in particular a cloudy day. Not too cloudy, just the days when the clouds look thick and rich like you could scoop up a spoonful, or bounce on them like a trampoline. They are also my favorite thing to paint. Clouds are actually what inspired me to paint in the first place. I’ve mentioned before that I have been drawing since about the age of five, but painting came later. I think around thirteen or fourteen. My Dad signed my sister and I up for a Chicago Park District painting class. He made her go because I was shy, which was unfortunately for her a price she paid more than once. We were the only young people in the class. I actually don’t remember too much about it. (I have a very convenient mental block for some of my more regrettable childhood moments) but I do remember what I painted, I may even still have it somewhere, it was a bowl with fruit and flowers. The woman teaching the class wasn’t a professional, she was a college med student making extra money. We went once a week for I think about six weeks, and I really don’t think we learned anything, but it was enough to whet my appetite. Our house was a bungalow with open attic space on both the front and back of a dormer that had been bumped out on the second floor. I claimed one as my “studio”, and would sit contentedly painting clouds, and non-distinctive landscapes. The best part about it was that I didn’t know enough to know that I didn’t know what I was doing. (Did you get that? Tongue twister anyone?) All I know was that it was a place to lose myself, and hide away from everyone, and create my own world right there on canvas. I have mentioned that I was a shy kid, but I was also the kid everyone made fun of, art and reading were my security blankets and only friends. When the teacher would leave the classroom for a moment and chaos would erupt, I would be sitting quietly at my desk, my new Nancy Drew Mystery in my hand, always anxious to get back to the next page. Art was the only class in school where I could feel happy and safe. I forgot about everything else when I was creating. When I began to paint it gave me such a sense of freedom, watching the oils swirl together magically under my brush, creating the days I wanted to have, and places I wanted to be.


Today was a particularly cloudy day here in Temecula. There was a storm front passing through, unusual for this time of year here in Southern California, but what a spectacular sky it gave us. Dan and I were out running errands and all I did was snap photos of the clouds. Thus my “Heavenly” inspiration. Initially I had planned to paint from one of the photos I took, but I decided to revisit my fourteen year old self and paint what I wanted to see.

As for my “Cause For Celebration”, I hit a milestone today with my blog. I have one hundred and one followers. I never thought about “followers” when I started this blog and project. It was a way to blackmail myself into doing the work I should have been doing all along. I know who I am. I am the woman who cleans the hotel room before the housekeeper comes in, just in case she might think I’m a slob. It doesn’t matter that she could probably care less, doesn’t know me, never will, but I’m that neurotic. I knew that if I made my promise to do more art a public vow, I would do it. You know, in case the WordPress police show up at my door.  I know some of you that read this blog do know me (probably a lot more now, maybe more than you bargained for), some of you are family and friends, but I don’t know one hundred people, so I want to thank all of you. The ones I know, the ones I don’t know, (and the ones that maybe no longer want to know me now that they’ve gotten to know me better!) thanks for the support, for being interested in the struggles of a woman who has put herself on the bottom of the “to do” list for most of her life. Thanks for looking at my art, reading my words, and for those of you who have reached out by commenting here, via email, or on Facebook. This has turned into a gift for myself, I never had friends as a kid, and have been a fairly solitary adult, but I feel like I’m part of something. Thanks.

8 29




IMG_0918And just because I need to share the beauty from above, a few photos from my iPhone of the clouds over Temecula today.IMG_0945






A Word From Mother Earth

I know, I’m under no delusion that I am Mother Earth, but I am after all a mother, and I do indeed reside on Earth…Still in some pain from yesterday’s not so graceful mishap, but not so much that I couldn’t work. I did manage to put together the pieces that I posted last night. I love how all these cabinet doors are coming out. It proves that so much of the “garbage” we throw away can be put to much better use than to add to landfills. It really upsets me when I see trash thrown from car windows, or garbage from a picnic at the park left on the ground.  I know I’ve made it known that I’m a bit of a recycling freak. My favorite fact to share with people when I am trying to make my recycling point is that the energy saved from recycling one aluminum can, can run a television set for three hours. It’s something I read more than twenty years ago, and I assume it’s still true, but even if it isn’t, don’t we all have an obligation to the world at large to make it a better place? Years ago I gave my little factoid to a manager I worked for. He laughed at me. Then I asked him about his six, yes six, children, and didn’t he want to leave a better world for them? Chicago at that time was reporting less than twenty-five years of landfill space left. His answer was that it was their problem. Nice. I want my kids to have a decent future, actually I want his kids and everyone else to have a good future too. All it takes is a little effort. Lets all smile at each other, say please and thank you, and pick up your stuff. Easy enough and it makes life better for all involved. In other words, play nice! Can you tell I’m a mom?

So for tonight, another upcycled cabinet door, almost ready to hang, and I think it looks much better here than sitting in the garbage can. I’m also posting a little feast for the eyes, we had friends come by tonight for dinner. Baked Goat Cheese with a sun-dried tomato pesto jam that I made, a green salad, with blue cheese, Canadian bacon, tomato, and homemade Thousand Island Dressing, and mini cheese burgers with chipotle mayo, cheddar, grilled onion, and guacamole. Good food and good friends, it doesn’t get better than that.8 27 (3)Before…IMG_0869After…almost. I still have a little trim to add. The bottom is the back of an old chair piece I had, and I used a scrap of wood to make the shelf. Painted the whole thing out in a paint named “Misty Morning”.

Now for the food…first the Goat Cheese and jam, alongside a container of fresh herbs I cut from the garden, and the salad, I failed to get a good shot of the burgers, and the blueberry pie that finished the meal!IMG_0874IMG_0877


Damaged Goods

It’s been some time since I’ve discussed my complete lack of coordination. Many people who know me believe that I am sick quite often, which actually isn’t true, I’m just injured a lot. I think it has a lot to do with my very active mind (previously known as Monkey Brain). I am always concocting something, could be a new recipe, or I may have seen a piece of junk I am re imagining in my head, or maybe it could be a piece of art I’m working on. All of this thought apparently occupies so much of my brain that I fail to see curbs, steps, and open doors, this of course leads to bumping into things, bruises, and in my case the six knee operations I have previously referred to. There is also the accidentally slit wrist (the gory details of that little episode are in a past entry), two sprained ankles, two broken fingers, an almost severed Achilles’ tendon, and an almost broken nose. There is so much more, but I’m sure everyone gets the general idea. It’s amazing that I don’t spend my life in a cast, or worse yet live like John Travolta in The Boy In The Plastic Bubble. I know it sounds pathetic, but I guess for me it’s just part of who I am. I have a tremendous amount of creative talent, so I guess the lack of coordination is the price I pay. I bring all of this humiliating information to the attention of everyone that reads my blog because I injured myself again today, and as a result I am posting a piece of art that I painted last year. I am also, in anticipation of tomorrow, giving a sneak peek of elements of tomorrow’s project, which hopefully I will be able to create, (that is if there isn’t some other spectacular event in the uncoordinated Olympics).  I am hoping to be up to working on yet another cabinet door. So what was today’s calamity? How did I manage to hurt myself once again? I hugged my husband. Seriously. Dan is about six-foot one, I am currently five-foot four. I say currently because much to my surprise I have lost an inch. No, not osteoporosis, my bones are good, it’s all those knee surgeries. Anyway, this morning I hugged Dan, and somehow upon disentangling myself from him I pulled something in my back. I have been dealing with scar tissue from a head on collision for a few years, and now who knows what I did. Who ever knows what I do? Maybe it’s Murphy’s Law, I am 100% Irish, could it be that Murphy is a not so distant relative? Maybe it has to do with my continual lack of sleep. Monkey brains don’t turn off easily, so sleeping is and always has been an issue. I’d like to believe that all that sleep deprivation fuels creativity, even if it does cause me to do idiot stuff like walking into walls, or God forbid hugging my husband. Hopefully tomorrow I will be a fully functioning klutz once again, and I will have new work to post.

8 27IMG_0863IMG_08658 27 (3)

The Battle Rages On

I almost called this post “Glutton For Punishment”. Why? Because I was feeling the pressure, self-imposed pressure, but pressure none the less, of painting another watercolor with perspective. As you know last night I was blaming my skewed brain, but the truth is that my perspective has always been awful, and I have simply not done enough to change that. It is oh so easy to fall back on the “woe is me, my parents wouldn’t let me have art lessons”, or there is always blaming “not good enough”, my alter ego that resides in the corners of my mind. Last night I said it, practice, practice, practice, so tonight I followed through. I chose a simple subject. Near my Dad’s house in Northern Illinois there is a subdivision named Prairie Crossings. It was designed to be a self-contained subdivision. Schools, train station, walking paths, but what I love most are the wild grasses, and wild flowers that are allowed to flourish there, and the houses, designed to look like old farm houses. I love just driving by and looking at the houses and fields. Based in part by a photograph and my memories of Prairie Crossings, I painted a simple sketch of two houses set in a field of grasses.


One of my favorite paintings is Christina’s World by Andrew Wyeth. I love the feel of that painting. I’ve spoken about my own art speaking to me, in the case of Christina’s World, it is the work of another artist that speaks. I feel a sense of longing, but not belonging when I look at it. It’s a feeling that I’m sure we may all have come across at some point in our lives. Whether it is within the confines of our own family, or within a group of friends, there are times while we “technically” are part of the group, we somehow find ourselves feeling on the outside. It’s a situation I find myself in quite a bit. I really think it has a lot to do with the remnants of my childhood shyness, and that I don’t speak as loud as most. I have a soft voice, and find myself repeating myself quite often, particularly at the deli or fish counter at the grocery store. When I’m in a group, I’m the quiet one, it’s just too much trouble to try to be heard. It’s funny to me how just bringing up that painting inspires all of this. That’s really what I want to achieve with my art, not perfection, but emotion, even if its disbelief at how bad the perspective is.8 26


My Skewed Brain

We all know that perspective is my arch nemesis. Maybe my brain is skewed. All I know is that if I don’t draw some kind of guideline everything goes to the right. That includes my handwriting. If I write on an unlined piece of paper, it will inevitably start climbing towards the right edge of the paper as if it were trying to make an escape. Tonight’s watercolor is a perfect example. It looks good as I’m sketching it, but when I pick up the paper and hold it away from myself it is definitely veering to the right. Its frustrating. Of course I know the answer to the problem, practice, practice, practice. I should be drawing daily. I also might try watching that perspective DVD I own. I think I may have mentioned it a few weeks ago. I did take a major step towards watching it then, by that I mean I took the wrapper off. I seem to have an aversion to actually learning how to do anything with help, but if I want to be a better artist I need to bite the bullet.

On a much better note, I love my gift for Dan. I actually ended up turning the cabinet door over and using the other side. The trim is flat instead of rounded and just worked better with the painting. I mixed a little flat black with a metallic gun metal and painted the door. I am also a huge fan of a worn edge, so I sanded the edges down. I glued the cut canvas down to the recessed area. It looks great. I do need to add a little trim inside around the painting. I may also add a finish coat. Dan and I also discussed putting a piece of glass over it. Not sure yet, but I’m really happy with it, and Dan loves it. When I think about it painting a cabinet door is the perfect gift for him. He is continually closing them behind me, and also shutting drawers.  Its not really my fault, it’s really because my brain is skewed.IMG_0828















Unsolicited Advice

When my friend Theresa offered me her old kitchen cabinet doors I was thrilled. I’ve already mentioned how much I enjoy re-purposing things. We already have multitudes of stuff in our garage, things that I’ve picked up over the years, always with some purpose in mind. Unfortunately there are too many pieces that I haven’t gotten too. I hesitated to take on the doors because I knew I had other projects I should attend to. I’m glad I did it. I only took four, there are several more for me to pick up, and I’m anxious to get to them. I’m working on the fourth one tonight. Before I let you in on what I’m doing with this one, I’m going to hand out a little free relationship advice.

I’ve been with Dan for twenty-seven plus years, married for twenty-four. What makes things work is this, think about each other, and then actually follow through and show it. Tonight as I was working Dan put on a movie that I love, just because he wanted to do it for me. Each day, in the smallest ways, we show each other kindness and consideration. He knows there isn’t a day that goes by that I’m not thinking of him, and I know the same. I had suggested that he pick a movie to watch because I was working. I brought it up because as he was choosing a movie, not for himself to enjoy, but one for me, I was using that last cabinet door to make a gift for him as a surprise. That’s how we work, always thinking about each other. A few years ago at Christmas we were opening gifts with our children and much to my surprise I received an Easy Bake Oven from Dan. I had mentioned to him that I had always wanted one as a child and had never gotten it. That same Christmas he unwrapped “Rock em Sock em Robots” from me. He had told me once that he had loved playing them as a kid with his brother. The kids were way beyond the getting toys years, and both of them laughed at us, but it was for me another reason why we are so happy together. We surprised each other that Christmas, but it just goes to show how two people who really care about each other end up thinking the same way. The movie Dan put on tonight was “Life As A House”, it stars Kevin Kline and Kristen Scott Thomas. A very meaningful movie about what’s really important in life. It was a good choice. I know what’s important in my life, my family back in Chicago, my kids, my friends, and in particular my husband. Four years ago Dan fulfilled a life long dream of mine, he took me to Paris for our twentieth wedding anniversary. Tonight when I was trying to decide what to do with the last door I decided to use it as framework for a painting for Dan. We went to a restaurant in Paris near the Moulin Rouge for dinner the night of our anniversary, Le Moulin De La Galette. The restaurant is housed in the only other existing windmill in the Montmartre area in Paris, and has been the subject of many great works of art. I had grabbed a business card on the way out the door. Dan loves the card, so I decided to reproduce it on a piece of canvas for him. I actually ended up rescuing a damaged canvas as well. An old canvas in my studio had been bent out of shape, I stripped it from its frame and cut it to fit the door. For tonight only the figure is done, I need to paint in the rest of the info from the card. As always it is late, and I will finish in the morning. I promise a finished photo for tomorrow night. So here we go again with a work in progress…for my husband, I love you.8 24 (1) 8 24 (2)

The Art Of Reinvention


1.Bring back into existence.

2. To remake or redo completely.

3. To make as if for the first time something already invented.

Reinvention, it’s about more than the cabinet doors that I post tonight, it’s about myself. Like so many women I have spent my life in a number of conventional roles, daughter, girlfriend, wife, mother, and eventually grandmother (no pressure kids, seriously). In all of that I failed far too often to see myself. I was so busy playing the roles, good daughter, great girlfriend, etc…I was so focused on being the best I could for everyone else in my life, that I didn’t do the best for me. I mentioned last night that for a while I didn’t even have a dream, and that is sadly very much the truth. I realized tonight as I was working on these old doors, doors that could have been cast off and thrown away, that I have been throwing myself away for years. My daughter reads this blog, and I want her to learn from my mistakes, not repeat them. I should have been taking time for my art, for myself years ago, but I had learned from my mother to put everyone else first, a lesson I took to heart. I started this blog more than four months ago, and it has been an incredible tool in helping me lift myself out of the rut I put myself in a long time ago. There is so much work that I have produced that I am really proud of. I feel like I’m reinventing myself as much as I am reinventing these doors. Finally becoming the whole person I should have been all along. I am still a daughter, a mother and a wife, but now I feel justified in calling myself an artist and a writer, and quite frankly just being myself. There are still days when I feel like I’m juggling too many balls in the air, and scrambling to get work done, but I’m doing it. I am still managing to care for my family and my home, and still carving that niche out of every day for myself. There are days when I allow myself more time than others, and there are days when I am falling asleep as I type this blog. Life is a balancing act, the trick is to realize that occasionally its OK to drop one of the balls, you can always pick it up again, but to always remember to keep your eye on the juggler. If you don’t take care of yourself, if you don’t love yourself, if you don’t allow yourself to dream, life will pass you by quicker than you can imagine. You may just find yourself wondering where your life went. I’m a little late to the party, but its far from over. I found this quote that I really like.

Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.

George Eliot

As I embark on my future artistic endeavors, as well as a new business with Dan, I know I am more than capable, I know we can succeed. I have reinvented myself, my life, and oh there are these doors…the first photo is one of the doors unfinished.IMG_0767This door has been “reinvented” as a child’s chalkboard.IMG_0773The second door as a serving tray with a chalkboard center. (Theresa’s suggestion, thanks for a terrific idea)IMG_0775

Daring To Dream

Aside from my artistic aspirations I have always had another dream, and that is to go into business. I don’t think when I was younger I knew what kind of business I wanted, I just knew that I wanted one. I also always swore it would be by the time I was forty. Well, if you haven’t figured it out by now, forty has come and gone. I am unfortunately one of those people who let far too much of their life pass by without believing in them-self enough to achieve their dreams. Actually, there was quite a bit of time when I didn’t even have one. The time has come. I finally have enough faith in myself to dare to think about what I want for me. I have had more than a few moments of deep sadness about the past, but regrets don’t move you forward, they only dig the hole deeper. What makes my dream even more attainable is that I will be doing it with Dan at my side. We work amazingly well together. More than a few other people have commented on that, particularly my Dad. The last time he visited I mentioned again my dream of opening a place, and he was incredibly supportive. He told me that he believes in me, in us, that he has seen what Dan and I can do together. He is right. We have a very warm and welcoming home, and are embarking on bringing that atmosphere to a business of our own. I can’t say yet what it is, the people closest to us know, call me suspicious, but until things are a little more secure I don’t want to reveal too much. Dan is still without a job, and we both think that all signs are pointing to this being the time for us. It’s risky, we are nervous, there are a few non-believers who think we are crazy, but I believe in us, it actually goes beyond belief, I know we can do it and do it well. Between us we have quite a skill set, there is nothing to stand in our way but us. We are ready to start our future.

All of the above being said, I intend to follow through on my blog, on my art. Over the next few weeks I may be producing pieces of art that will serve a dual purpose, they will be for both this project and our business. Today I revisited Jessica for only a minute, I literally had to force myself to step away. I was thisclose to muddying up her face. I have work to do on it, but I need to gather all of my patience and wait. I pulled myself away and began to work on not one, but three projects. All of them involve the reuse of old materials…that’s right! The recycler is back. Two of Theresa’s old kitchen cabinet doors, serving two very different purposes, not enough to bother posting tonight, you’ll have to wait for those until tomorrow. The other is a piece of scrap wood from our garage. I decided I wanted to wood-burn our upcoming business logo on it and turn it into a sign. Alas, I can’t find my wood burner! Me of the extremely organized studio. I’ve looked everywhere (well, obviously not everywhere or I would have it), so I sketched the design in pencil, and then beat the crap out of two inexpensive ballpoint pens carving the design into the wood. When the wood burner comes out of the witness protection program (I burned myself last time, and have no doubt I will again), I will burn the design in. It isn’t finished. If you’ve ever been insane enough to carve wood with a pen you will understand how much my hand is hurting. I’m quitting for the night, will finish tomorrow, and all will be well with the world, unless of course the wood burner makes an appearance, and then it’s a whole new ball game.

Work in progress…to be continued.8 22