January 14, 2017

Not my president.

NotmypresYears ago when I was a social worker for my county's child protective services, I had a caseload of children who suffered all sorts of neglect and abuse from their parents. Some were more severe than others. Once when I was talking with an adolescent who had suffered unimaginable abuse at the hands of his father, I was asking various things about his dad and he looked me in the eye and said "He's not my dad."

It was a sentence so full of hurt and anger and symbolism. I knew what he meant. He was a smart kid. He knew that the monster was his biological father. But he was saying that the monster would never be considered in his heart, as his dad. You need to be better than what that man had been to earn that title.

In that moment, I had a choice. Either to respect the poetic and nuanced utterance of his pain or to impose a rigid cruelty back to him. A cold and heartless cruelty dispensed to the point of making him cry uncle ... much like the way people like Kellyanne Conway does when she destroys people and insists ... and forces them to say it ... Say it. Say it. He's your president. Say it.

Today, when I utter about Conway's boss that he's "Not my president," I'm not saying that I don't understand what happened on November 8th and what will happen January 20th. I know who won the election. I concede. He will become President of the United States in about a week. I understand. But for me to regard a person as MY president, they have to be more than the victor of an election and more than the vengeful misogynist and racist monster that he is.

Uncle I will not cry.

January 13, 2017

459 Solo Flight

Flower1459 Solo Flight
16x20 inches :: original acrylic painting on stretched canvas
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I referenced one of my dried roses for this work. I enjoyed keeping the strokes loose and free.

I used to be a lot more bothered that no matter how careful, paint finds its way onto all of my shoes and clothes. These days, I'm hardly bothered at all. It's just messy evidence of all the practice.



To Move Mountains

To moveAfter my recent photo shoot with Nick Holmes, I felt like I could move a mountain. It's a feeling I didn't expect but I'm so glad I experienced it. And I'm glad to have finally checked off of my bucket list: the task of getting {partially) nude shots taken. Interestingly, some of what he was saying to me during the shoot sounded much like what I say to people who come to paint with me.

Messages about not over-thinking it. Not comparing myself to others. Focusing on my strengths, not my weaknesses. Of being in the moment. Of embracing my power. Of sincerely exuding who I am.

This type of shoot is what Nick calls Empowering Portraiture. A lot of clients who embark on Empowering Portraiture with him do so before a big project ... like filming a movie, or arguing a court case so the power one feels after the shoot can carry over to the big project.

So ... my big thing?

It's nothing, really. And it's everything, actually. It's nothing, because I remain steadfast in being an artist ... like always. It's everything, because more than ever, I want my art to meaningfully intersect with my activism.

It's whether I will be able to sustain the strength of my spine, my backbone, my voice, my hope, my focus, as I march with women on January 21st to be part of a collective voice to resist against the misogyny, racism and  fascism that will be sworn into our highest office on January 2oth.

These past few weeks as I've talked with fellow artists and women and men who are either marching or supporting the marches in other ways, I feel the power. As I listen to women with strong spines and no fear like Michelle and Meryl, I feel hope. As I listen to President Obama who asks a final favor of me: that I open myself to being a change agent, I think that ... yes, I can. As long as I embrace my power, and sincerely exude who I am, in concert with so many who feel the same.

There will be a post-march gathering that my friend, Shawn-Marie Turi and I will be organizing for people marching in the Women's March: Orange County. It will be in Santa Ana at 1:30PM (details forthcoming here in the next few days), where we can break bread, breathe, de-brief, and organize ourselves as we work together for the long haul ... to move mountains.


January 12, 2017

458 One Up, Two Down

Tres rosas458 One Up, Two Down

9x12 inches :: original acrylic painting on canvas board

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I referenced three of my dried roses for this work. Getting my mind wrapped around flowers as I prepare for my Saturday flowers painting workshop.

January 11, 2017

457 Fur Babies

Brothers457 Fur Babies
6x8 inches :: original oil painting on gessobord
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I referenced a photo of my dogs for this work. Scout is the gentle and adorably cowardly one on top. His brother Toby is the fearless take-a-bullet-for-the-family courageous one on the bottom. Silky Terriers. Can they be any cuter?

January 10, 2017

457 Gethsemanie

Gethsemanie457 Gethsemanie
6x6 inches :: original oil painting on gessobord
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I referenced a photo by @thabitsk for this work.

Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did unto me. —Matthew 25:40

January 09, 2017

456 In the Bleak Midwinter


456 In the Bleak Midwinter

6x8 inches :: original oil painting on gessobord

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I referenced a photo by @gettyimages for this work. So cold and bleak things must look to this bunny in this midwinter ... as the beautiful old hymn goes: "In the bleak midwinter, frosty wind made moan, earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone ..."

And even so, the bunny surely recalls what John Steinbeck once penned: "What good is the warmth of summer, without the cold of winter to give it sweetness."


January 08, 2017

455 Love is Love

LoveIsLove455 Love is Love

6x8 inches :: original oil painting on gessobord

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I referenced a photo by @nilswachterphotography for this work. It was literally twice the work, painting two faces instead of one but I enjoyed the challenge.

Love is love.

Gosh, that feels good to say. We crush. We lust. We long. We imagine. And if we are lucky, even for one small moment, we get to love who we love. xoxo


Take to the Oars

OarsFor about 72 hours after the election, I found myself in a fog of fear. Fear that the needy, insecure and reckless caricature of a president, #DonaldDunce, would provoke unnecessary international conflict leading the world into war. The fog made me feel that I needed to make nice, walk on eggshells and promote peace as a zombie pacifist.

And then I realized that IF I love my country, allowing #DonaldDunce to continue without resistance is wrong. The right thing for me to do is throw away my fear and pick up my oar. Even when Pea Brains come by to respond to my expressions and say things like:

  1. "I follow you for your art, not your politics. Go back to making art."
  2. "Do you really want North Korea to have nuclear weapons?" (in response to my taking umbrage with #DonaldDunce's taunts toward North Korea)
  3. "You lost. Get over it."
  4. "Obama will be ... a bad memory ... Make America Great Again!"

And on and on ... making me feel hopeless ... causing me to wonder if I ought to put my oar away and bury my head in the sand. But you know what I have found? Thoughtful, logic-driven, well-read, compassionate patriots out-number Pea Brains. Michelle Obama stated in her final speech as First Lady: "Don't be afraid. Be focused. Be determined. Be hopeful. Be empowered."

Because ...

  1. To those who want me to go back to making art: (1) Art that incorporates political commentary (like knitted pussyhats) IS art and is protected under the first amendment and (B) I do not exist simply to provide convenient and tidy art-viewing opportunities for any one person.
  2. North Korea already has nuclear weapons. The point is whether taunting that nation questioning whether they can launch an effective one aimed at the US (as #DonaldDunce) has done is prudent.
  3. It's not a reality game show of losing and winning. It's about staying engaged with reality and participate in shaping America ... the land that I love.
  4. No matter his leadership, his calm, his diplomacy, his accomplishments, his polish ... I have come to realize that there are some who begrudge Obama and the last 8 years primarily because he is Black. And "Make America Great Again" is code for "Make America White Again." And for the women who voted for #DonaldDunce, I have come to conclude that they hate Black more than they love Woman.

So ... to those who may have been in a fog of fear like I was ... I want to say that you are not alone. We are many. We don't have to be afraid. Together, we can move mountains and cross oceans. The time is now to grab our oars and row.


January 04, 2017

454 Oar Girl

FullSizeRender-256454 Oar Girl

24x18 inches :: acrylic on stretched canvas

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This is the demo painting I made during the private painting session I taught in the studio today. Before painting, as we brainstormed ideas we decided to practice painting a girl in a canoe in the water ... and for me, I decided to add an exaggerated arm that serves as an oar.  It reminds me of when I was an undergraduate at UC Irvine and during some heated discussions in a writing class, one of my favorite professors said that no matter how difficult discussions get, it's important to keep thinking critically, keep reading, and keep my oar in the water ... to participate in the direction of conversations, the direction of the world.

As the painting was concluding, I googled quotes about oars and found this perfect proverb that I added:

"If the wind will not serve, take to the oars."

No matter how difficult.
More than ever.
I will keep my oar in the water.

Oar Girl (AKA #FangGrrr)


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