I’m on a mission. Sometimes it seems dang near impossible, but so be it. I want the world to see art differently. I wrote about it last month, and am adding to it here. Another layer. Going deeper into the creative life and process, via my own. Excuse me if it sounds self-absorbed. It is. It’s a necessary place to start from and move forward and find common ground. May Sarton sums it up best for me:

“One must believe that private dilemmas are, if deeply examined, universal, and so, if expressed, have a human value beyond the private. I am willing to give myself away and take the consequences, whatever they are.”

Those that know my work are familiar with the fact that I work indirectly, in layers.  As I’ve talked about previously, I worked on 3 pieces of the same person, all started with a purple toned ground. It was an experiment of sorts, to see if I could overcome my neurotic ways with commissions. The stress, the obsessive thoughts revolving around likeness and pleasing people. I have a lot of insecurities folks. I hope you know that. I’m old enough to finally admit to them too. I really wanted to walk my talk about ‘transcending likeness’, to see if what I discovered going way deep into that unknown ‘I-don’t-know-if-this-will-work’ space will uncover something new. It did. I found I still have a lot to learn.  About trust.

The good news is, I walked through those doubts and let them exist right alongside  my confidence in what I could do. And just like that, those thoughts came and went. It was exhausting. Add to that an average 4 days of intense yoga practice every week to make it even more interesting. Going within is an understatement.

There is not a day that goes by that I don’t think about the future of my work, its material success out in the world. Can I make things that matter to people, even just a little bit? Will it matter enough for them to purchase it? Will that work be relevant decades from now, or will it be sitting in a thrift shop somewhere waiting for a couch to match it? It can defeat me if I let it, these worries. Like a virus entering in and causing harm to our physical selves, doubts can easily cause permanent damage to who we are at our core. It we allow them to run amuck.

Then it hit me that I need those doubts. In small controlled doses.

How else do I learn to grow as a person?  A person with heaviness that makes it worth that weight? As an artist who wants to offer more than what an image can portray? I have stuff. I think too much. My head gets LOUD. The wonderment, the quiet, the questions, the dramas. The light. All of that gets mixed up and shown along with the beautifully complex people I get to paint for a living. When we meet, I look for that binding thread in their eyes. Then I run with it, and allow it to grow into something else on the canvas. Bigger, more substantial, yet oddly lighter than what it seems. More than I ever could have planned or expected to happen. Transferring Weight.  Allowing all those layers if not seen, than for sure, felt.  I’ve used ‘felt’ a lot around here. It’s part of my mission. Go deep. Make friends with the shadows.

Layers. They are getting peeled back, covered up and reinvented. As much as I talk and whine and soapbox about it,  there is no going back. It’s worth its weight in gold.








The Urge to Connect

I find it interesting that so many artists are ruling social media. History often speaks of the reclusive, eccentric artist. Today, we are all over everywhere on the interwebs. Just like the true space creatures I often think we are. Ok.. I’ll speak for myself. I am a space creature that connects on social media.

There seems to be an urgency out there (and in me) to make work that will reach out, and make a difference, even the smallest of kinds. It is possible that it may be just my circle of artist friends, or my genre of painting, but I see very few people treating their art as a factory assembly line. We want to create things that will stay. In homes, in hearts.

I’ve often spoken of art as being a visionary practice. Whether my fellow artists would admit to this, is another matter. The problem with that notion is that it doesn’t look good on a business card. “Visionary. No job too small.” How do I even explain that to my Croatian parents? Is there a word for it?

Ask the people that live with me, I am often frustrated by the world. Most often though, I understand why. It is not easy to live in this day and age, a lot is shifting.  I get it. That’s why I paint what I paint. I want you, the viewer, to know I get it. I want you to know that just because it is murky and unclear today, it won’t always be. There is wisdom in stillness, but you have to be quiet long enough, steady often enough, to know this.

Art in your life will slow you down. It doesn’t matter what kind it is. If it makes you think, if it makes you smile, if it brings up a memory, you slow down. You put your gadgets down and look up at the wall. Maybe grab a drink to ponder further. It may remind you to go outside, and find those clouds that were painted. To look at the bowl of fruit in your kitchen, and marvel at how an artist was able to paint it true to life. You may see a painting of an elderly person, with a map of wrinkles, then suddenly appreciate the time it took to even get to that face. A bold field of color.. what IS it? Who cares! The fact that you even want to know what the heck it means is activating your brain.

We artists already know that art is worth making. We want you to know, that it is also worth having.  The real art, made one at a time, with every ounce of dedication, thought, and craft that any other professional out in the world is doing. There are many of us who have made it our jobs, and so many more that have made it our lives. To be shared.

That is no small thing.

Feeling My Way There

I’m recovering from a particularly gut wrenching bout of paint fling. Lest you think I’m complaining, let me assure you I’m not.

To back pedal a wee bit. My entire body of work from 2009 on started from the notion that I will let my tools of experience guide my hand via my heart. And lest you think this is a tad bit over the top smaltzy, you would be right.

By that I mean, throw all caution to the wind, and chuck any plans, any ideas swimming in my head, and be totally engaged in the moment of painting. It is not always pretty. In fact, it’s usually bitterly nauseating. In spots.

My head questions my sanity all the time, make no mistake. Most artists I know have a notion, then they work out said notion in sketches and color studies. Setting up models, lighting, situations.. Hats off to them. I have lost all patience with that. I’m not saying ‘my way is the right way’, but it is My Way. I own up to my trials and tribulations throughout. I chose this.

I am in the middle of a series of 3, one of which is finished. They all started with purple toned panels, which- surprising to me, changed most of my color choices. I often change up at least one thing from one piece to the next. Purple was it for these. The one completed went through drastic changes. The figure started out being surrounded by foliage of green, which sat well for me for about 6 hours. Then, yuk, too expected. I glazed lots of transparent blues, violets over it, until it became darkened, as if by age. That too didn’t last long. Then it was, get the knife out. Add globs of paint. Orange. It needs orange SKIN! Yes! who doesn’t want orange skin in their portraits. On this went, week to week. The changes made me dizzy.

Now, regular type sane variety painters would be wagging their fingers at the screen right now chastising me for not doing preliminary work.

And they would be right. This type of behavior is what preliminary work was invented for. One needs to predict ‘the problems’, right? Truth is,  I have embraced my scrambled mind. Within the chaos of that, I find a certain clarity, a knowledge I didn’t know I had.  This knowledge is a combination of things. Of 35+ yrs of painting experience, and that open heart I mentioned. Pretend I have antennae on my head. That’s the best visual I can offer you. I pick things up, and go with them. I don’t claim to know all the answers when it comes to painting, but I do know my answers to it. And that’s all I need. One step at a time.

Embrace the unknown. The worst that can happen is that you’ll get lost enough to have something to find. It’s quite a ride.

If you’d like to follow along on my painting journey, please stop by here on facebook for works in progress.

With Dragonfly Wings

A Bevy of Thoughts

This post title came to me just like that, so I went with it. Clearly not the best way to use the word ‘bevy’, since it means “a large group of animals, especially quail”. Shrug. Who am I to argue with my thought bubbles. After all, they have been mostly right in my life.

This is my year end grouping of thoughts, in case you were wondering.

I’d like to start with gratitude. Always that. Being able to make art for a living is something that is just a dream for many. It is a privilege for me. Truly. I was lucky enough to receive 8 portrait commissions this year, sold some personal work, and acquired a gallery in Denver, Colorado, Saks Galleries. Please visit if you are in the area. Wow, my best year in a long time.

The thread of my personal work continues, working with the figure in the environment. That’s the basic theme. With each piece, I throw something new into the equation, be it a new tool, a new color, or a new substrate. This year, I started working on copper, something I’ve always been curious about and finally began experimenting with. I wrote about it here. Although my work has its natural flow, changing a few key elements like that is enough for me to go deeper, and not rely on habitual marks as rote. I can’t change my art handwriting (nor would I want to) but the opportunity to discover new territory is endlessly fascinating to me. And it doesn’t require screaming in public, like bungee jumping would do. I make sure no microphones are on while I paint. It would be worrisome to a few.

As per my usual, my art is closely tied with my life. I am often asked why I paint women. And now, children. Yes, they are usually female. First off, that is my viewpoint. I am female.  It is not uncommon for artists to work from their own perspectives. It can get dangerous- as far as the market goes- if the personal perspective isolates the viewer. There has to be some common ground. I know of no other way to work, quite frankly. The fact remains that I am directly involved on several levels.  My hand makes the mark. That’s one reason. Number two, I seem to be ‘working out’ a number of personal history issues. I don’t have a concrete list of what they are at all. In fact, I don’t even want to know. It simply seems important to release, to reveal. Number three, the ‘social statement’ reason is that I strongly feel that women have been sold short. We are often portrayed as bodies only. Beautiful, objectified ones, especially in figurative art. Blank faces with no purpose than to look pretty. The direct gaze, as well as allowing whatever emotion or energetic mark to live within that portrayal of beauty is my hope in overcoming the one-dimensional viewpoint. My hope. I can only try.

Juggling my day to day is always a challenge, especially in recent years. All I want to do is paint, but there’s life stuff to take care of. So, I struggle with that one a lot. Also, the older I get the less logical I become. Laugh, go on. I am amazed when I look through my old business records and notice how detailed I was with record keeping, bookkeeping, the like. This year, I am bound and determined to gather my left brain back some, and charge it up.  It starts this month. I need to revamp my website, and deal with all kinds of number crunching, taxes, college prep for my son heading out this fall…We all have this kind of thing as artists. I’m sure many of you can relate.

Up ahead (this will count as resolutions) I want to stop more often. I’d like to take the time to truly be grateful, more. From my family, my friends, even my flipped out cats. My Subaru. It’s a little tank! Plows through snowstorms way down low and safely. The studio. My haven and unmatched place to create. Where would I do all this if not for that space?

I want to stop complaining. About all kinds of things, issues, politics, and people. We all have our places of struggle, of worry, of battle. Who am I to say anything to that? When I learn to stop more, I’d like to send out waves of compassion, instead of judgement. It just takes a little more effort on my part, just a little.

I have good intentions of doing more drawing again. Like these little cups. Simple things I can set up and just draw. It brings me back, drawing does, in ways that painting can’t. The stillpoint. I need that daily more than my coffee even. (Ok, maybe not more than coffee.. ) I get so tired of talking, tired of having to be ‘out there’ as an artist, (as a person sometimes) but if I don’t, who will do it?

So, bless you all. Thank you for reading my rambling words, my obsessive bevy of quails here. Please stay tuned for more down the pike.

I leave this post with one my of quiet teacups that sold this year.

May your year be filled with peace, more often than not.

One Cup. graphite

One Cup. graphite

One Set of Eyes

How does a person go about choosing one’s life work? Do you think about what will provide security, a life of comfort…excitement perhaps? Or, is all about a Job, essentially a paycheck- and not a Vocation.

I ask because I don’t know how other people go about it. I was lucky enough to have someone tell me what to do with my life. That person is Sr. Lucia Vasko.

Sr. Lucia at the window she designed at Ursuline College

Sr. Lucia at the window she designed 

Now before that left eyebrow goes up, let me just tell you that this was a good thing.

It was suggested to me when I entered high school that I choose a practical career path, and I agreed. In sophomore year, my schedule allowed time for an elective course, which guessed it, art. Sr. Lucia did not hesitate in resetting my direction. She decided right then and there that I needed to become an artist. Case closed. Scratching my head, I said that’s great, but you’ll have to discuss this with my parents. And she did. And they listened, shrugging their shoulders at the kind nun who seemed to know about such things.

Sr. Lucia, two classmates and I at the Scholastics competition in 1980.

Sr. Lucia, two classmates and me at the Scholastics competition in 1980.

There are many variations to this story. Countless students that Sr. has guided and inspired in her 60+ years of teaching.

Born in Cleveland and raised in Willoughby, she entered the Ursuline order right after high school, in 1950.  Sr. Lucia taught primary and middle school for her first few years, but has taught at the high school level for the majority of her career. Sr. Lucia attended St. John’s College for a while, but completed her undergraduate degree in English and Art at Ursuline College. It took her five summers to earn her graduate degree from the Rochester Institute. She continued to take post-graduate classes at a variety of universities, and has worked in clay, drawing, printmaking and stained glass. She has taught evenings at Ursuline College, working both with art teachers and also adults interested in art lessons. “I love every form of drawing,” she says. “I could draw all day if people would let me. I also love to paint, but it’s just not as handy—you don’t always have a brush nearby. My ultimate medium is stained glass, but you need a studio for it and you need a lot of special equipment.”

Sr. Lucia designed and created the stained glass windows in the St. Angela Chapel at the Ursuline motherhouse. “I felt like that was the apex of everything I had done,” she says. “I treasure the windows.”

Generative Love, stained glass windows at Ursuline College Chapel

Generative Love, stained glass windows at the St. Angela Chapel


More work:

Dawn of Being, etching, aquatint.

Dawn of Being, etching, aquatint.

Crest of Youth, etching, aquatint

Crest of Youth, etching, aquatint

Autumn of Maturity, etching, aquatint

Autumn of Maturity, etching, aquatint

Night of Life, etching, aquatint

Night of Life, etching, aquatint

I am happy to share that Sister will finally have her opportunity to become a full-time artist. She has a beautiful studio space in which to work in, and I for one am so looking forward to seeing what she comes up with in the coming days and years.

As we packed up her classroom this past week, I was struck by how much I have gained from this single person, this one set of eyes that cast their gaze on what I was doing and found it worthy enough to focus on, to have ME focus on it. She changed the path of my life. I know no other way to thank her but by creating a piece that she will hopefully treasure. It is a portrait of St. Theresa of Liseux, a saint Sr. Lucia has a particular affinity for. I believe they share so many similar qualities.

St. Theresa of Liseux at 15, a gift for Sr. Lucia

St. Theresa of Liseux at 15, a gift for Sr. Lucia

The biggest piece I will carry, and never quite duplicate, is her purity, her sheer love of life and (seemingly) everyone in it. She takes so much in stride, with nary a complaint. There’s a glow about her, a joy in just giving. Her vocation reaches way beyond the obvious one of serving God. She sees the value in each of us, encourages us to use our gifts because that is the BEST way to serve the world. My interpretation of her charism is to BE the gifts we are given.

I will never understand the idea I’ve often heard out there,  that ‘you are not your job’…well, if you can’t be, then you’ve chosen the wrong one. You need another set of eyes to show you the way. Thank you Sister, for lighting mine.


Am I no longer young,
and still not half-perfect?
Let me keep my mind on what matters,
which is my work,

which is mostly standing still
and learning to be astonished.

–Mary Oliver, excerpt from her poem “Messenger.”

This little section struck me today as I continue to maneuver through these days, post solo show, in midst commissions, packing up work to travel out west, while managing life as a middle-aged woman, wife, daughter of ailing parents, and mom of a teenager. I’ve been feeling a little overwhelmed lately, occasionally out of whack, and usually self absorbed.

There, I said it.

Hard not to be when you claim art as a career. One’s journey is a big part of the equation, the way I figure.

So, when we live our lives, and all that is in it,  what parts do we claim to make the art? The pretty nice sunny day life? The dark depressing fraught side? Do you, we, as artists sit and actually decide? What messages propel you forward in your art making? I would love to hear how my artist friends out there manage this.

For me, the last 2-3 years have been entirely different than my previous hundred. My spiritual journey has taken me to some pretty intense places, that have, in essence, wiped me clean only to leave a void to be filled, again and again, and not always with the fun stuff. I won’t go into the gorey details. We all have had these days, those years.

When I returned to my easel after all that turmoil awhile back, what inspired me was to listen. To listen more deeply than I ever have in my life. (and trust me, growing up a quiet kid, you develop pretty awesome listening skills.) I didn’t think about what will sell, what was marketable. I just moved. And not all of it forward.

The doing is the thing. That was number one. It wasn’t up to me to decide anything more.

The other message I still receive- is what this poem reminded me of again. To look around, and be astonished. This part will often take work on my part. It is so easy for me to forget, to get lost in my own stories, my past, the future.. the chips and salami to eat when I get home. So many distractions. Once I develop the habit, and reinforce it daily, I find I’m much better off. It’s not that the difficulties are not there, but they don’t hold me hostage.

It’s transformation of the best kind.

All of it creates the work. Which is why, I believe, so many people see so many different stories within a single painting. That’s the goal really, for me. I don’t want to create the message for the viewer. The best I can do is be honest with what filters through me, and allow it to be. The way I see it, welcoming all the messages will leave no stone unturned. And in my pedestrian wanderings through gardens, the dirt under those stones are pretty darn rich.

Here’s the full poem:

Messenger, by Mary Oliver

My work is loving the world.

Here the sunflowers, there the hummingbird—

equal seekers of sweetness.

Here the quickening yeast; there the blue plums.

Here the clam deep in the speckled sand.

Are my boots old? Is my coat torn?

Am I no longer young, and still half-perfect? Let me

keep my mind on what matters,

which is my work,

which is mostly standing still and learning to be


The phoebe, the delphinium.

The sheep in the pasture, and the pasture.

Which is mostly rejoicing, since all the ingredients are here,

which is gratitude, to be given a mind and a heart

and these body-clothes,

a mouth with which to give shouts of joy

to the moth and the wren, to the sleepy dug-up clam,

telling them all, over and over, how it is

that we live forever.

Ambiguity & Wisdom

Well, another solo show up. It’s always a thrill to see it all hung, well lit in a beautiful place. The Carnegie in Covington, KY is no exception. It is a performing arts center with gorgeous exhibition rooms just across the river from Cincinnati, OH.

The work shown is a continuation of what I started in earnest in 2011. The merging of what we know, with mysterious more ethereal passages informed by the paint itself.  Here is my statement about it:

This collection of work represents a deeper exploration of what has intrigued me for years: The power of paint, and the wisdom of people.

 Ambiguity. For me, the abstracted marks seem to cause a response in the brain when it is not describing something visual. An expansiveness occurs, and so many possibilities of seeing and feeling become apparent. Why not sit with a painting with multiple interpretations, which can include more than just a story to ponder? Something that cannot necessarily be categorized, or even named?

 Wisdom. I believe we come to earth simply knowing plenty already, but have forgotten much of it, or how to access it. It is the type of knowledge that is triggered while we exist in the natural world. A rhythm, a pulse. Steady confidence. The feeling is almost primal, but more integrated than that. This wisdom is not revealed all at once, but as we need it, and as we learn to ask.

I am allowing these paintings to come to form as openly as I can. I stand back and dictate very little, but respond completely.

The show runs until October 11.  If you are in the area, please consider stopping in.

To view highlights of the show,  please visit my Professional Page on FB: