The Stories

People often ask me whether or not my stories and faces are based on real people that I know and there really is no simple answer to that question. Over the past year I've been participating in a group project on Instagram of drawing or painting one hundred faces. When posting each new painting or drawing I introduce them to the world by writing and sharing their story. I share their names, the context of how we happened to meet and usually I include some snippet of interesting information I learn while we are together as subject and artist. My subjects are often quirky and always quite interesting.  I learn something new about art, life or myself from each completed work. Their stories are upbeat, sometimes very exciting and always offer wisdom of one sort or another.  Over time this has became a signature aspect of my work. You can meet a few of my paintings by reading their stories below. 


This is a new painting of Molly my hair stylist. Remember? You know  from the impromptu therapy group I do on Saturdays at the hair salon? Molly is in a constant state of transformation physically as well as metaphysically. She's always experimenting with hair color and wrinkle remover asking cosmetic questions like should she wear makeup or go natural.πŸ’„Aside from our therapy group she participates in another group of cosmologists on Thursdays that ponder questions like "does the universe exist outside of human perception?" or "what is the sound of one hand clapping?"😐All very circular in nature and to my mind crazy making and part of the reason her hair girls need therapy every week.😬 I mean she's the leader and sets the tone for the salon. Plastic stars and large planets glow on the ceiling, the music is always someone humming tunelessly and ringing bells. There is huge a map of the universe in each girls station to keep them pondering their existence while mixing bleach and blow drying hair.😐 Honest. πŸ™ˆ Crazy. 😜 Cosmetology and cosmology seem to sort of cancel each other out know what I mean? Anywaaaay... Who am I to question the way she runs her business. She's a gorgeous painting subject and gives me an opportunity to endlessly explore mixed media portraits. 


This painting has claimed more of me than just my heart. It has torn off a small piece of my soul. I was not aware that was going to happen when I began painting. At times with art I feel like a mere passenger on a journey for which I have no meaningful compass or ability to navigate. Art has been functioning as a portal through which all the disparate parts of my life and self are trying to connect. This has very little to do with any conscious choice on my part. In fact some of my art friends have witnessed me determinedly resisting the pull of emotion, fear and the unknown. But as soon as i reach that moment when I feel that art is more of a burden and heartache than an act of creation I just that quickly feel the pull toward the next mesmerizing inspiration. Many months ago Ivy came across a photograph of a small child in a red gown who had covered her face with her hands as though she were trying to escape the exposure of the camera. She sent it to me in a text saying it seemed meant for me. And now here she is openly showing her emotions. She has her daemon, the small, delicate fawn carefully bound to her with the red thread. I love her, adore them both and now I can willingly sacrifice that tiny bit of soul to them.


I believe the Soul is a garden wild and free until born into corporeal existence. Once it is captured within the body it sacrifices it's natural ability to nurture and care for itself. If my soul is to remain lush and exuberant with the joy of living I need to tend it with an ear to the earthly ground. I must watch for the harmful follies of humanity and my own reckless nature. My soul depends upon me and I depend upon my soul. We are synergistically entwined so if I harm myself with the silence born of fear I cannot help but damage my soul as well. This image is my talisman for tenderness and courage. She is my soul guardian willing to protect me from myself if only I surrender my willfulness. I am terrible at being courageous and feel the wounding of that each time I shrink from the fullness of my emotional life. I love that she is dropping bits of fertile light onto the ground and that she is leading with my red thread. Those birds are free souls showing me the way to transcend my own homely garden of weeds and brambles so that My soul and I might experience the exhilaration of flying free together. 


Miranda has issues. I mean we all have issues and challenges right? Yes yes for sure .... but some people have more than the average and let's just put it on the table.... some people are just plain fruitcakes. πŸ˜† It's not the hat, I adore the hat. I actually asked if we could make a trade, the wolfs hat for an original portrait. No go. In fact she wasn't all that interested in having her portrait done. She was far more focused on pollen gathering for her pet bee with a pair of tweezers than standing still in the field while I fiddled with a paintbrush. I had all of ten minutes to get the gist of her look and the surroundings before her patience wore thin. I could tell she was loosing her grip because after about 5 minutes she started making all sorts of disturbing sounds. Blowing her stuffed up nose into a paper bag 😀(no tissues😱) and sucking on a huge jawbreaker and letting it roll around clacking against her teeth😬. She even started scratching various body parts with her hairbrush.πŸ˜– Honest to god the girl never stopped moving the entire time. All I could do was try not to hear the all those wet sounds πŸ™‰ and avert my eyes πŸ™ˆduring the offending activities for fear of what kind of awful faces I might start making in reaction to what I was watchingπŸ™Š. Jeeze we were not synchronized at all. After a while I realized I could enjoy the field of beautiful flowers, listen to the birdsong and breathe the fresh spring air and forget the portrait. I relinquished my hold upon her time and she scampered off happily wielding her her eyebrow tweezers and picking up specs of golden pollen from the flowers to feed her pet bee. I lay down amongst the flowers, felt the warmth of the sun and spent the afternoon making up stories in my head as I watched clouds floating by. *This portrait is based on a photograph by Aleksandra Kirievskaya.


She stands silent and utterly still beneath the Dragon tree. She is there tall and regal at sunrise and sunset and seemingly every moment between. Her hands gently caress one another, palms open and cupped as though to catch the falling coins of golden light that filter through the tall blade-like leaves. When the parched winds blow in from the South the leaves shiver and scrape one upon the other complaining of the stifling heat in dry rasping whispers. Every now and then a small mound of dates appears within her hands. From my vantage point on the hill the small bits of sticky, copper hued fruit are refreshed as if magically summoned each time the mound diminishes in size. 
The recipients of these riches are a flock of tiny Canaries. They surround her like a soft cloud of radiant light and serenade their gratitude in sweet warbling voices. They land upon her hands and shoulders or cling with tiny feet to her gowns to feed, to rest or chatter and coo to one another. 
She remains quiet and still but for her beatific expression which subtly shifts in small increments of joy as the tiny Canaries feast and renew themselves. As dusk falls they sing and move in beautiful harmony to roost within the Dragon tree just above her head forming a golden crown of light. 
The final nightly sounds are the flutter of wings shifting into soft pillows for sleep. When all are settled and quiet she appears to sigh with satisfaction with an imperceptible relaxing of her own body to rest until the predawn ruffling of feathers announce a new day is about to begin.


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Naomi's spirit dwells in a house that was built by her father. It is a small cabin built atop a hill overlooking the river and carefully positioned so that each month it is bathed in radiant moonlight when the lunar cycle reaches its apex. When she looks out of the window she sees a world of mystery and darkness where small pale lights move ceaselessly amongst the dense copse of trees that encircle the house. The glowing embers of light are carried within crystal bowls by small ethereal creatures who's work it is to spread grace and love. Naomi has no memory of an earlier life other than the one she shares now with her daemon Blue. She can however foresee a future when she and Blue will one day leave this house and although she has no inkling of where they will go she trusts Blue to lead them on a path towards usefulness and greater purpose within the larger world. For now though, here within these blessed woods she and Blue absorb the light and grace surrounding them in preparation for the next chapter in their life together.


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I met up with Princess P for a quick portrait session and because we both were starving agreed the Dunkin Donut shop sounded perfect. P is an ethereal beauty and an incredibly talented violin virtuoso. She is Olivia's violin teacher and she tells us Olivia is showing signs of having gifts with music. I'm pretty biased in Olivia's favor but a teensy bit skeptical of that evaluation since they've had just one lesson and as far as I can tell all that happened was Olivia learned how to hold the violin and wax her bow strings. πŸ™‰πŸ˜Ά Im here in Chicago having a fantastic visit with my daughter Rachel and my grandchildren Olivia, Henry and Nora. There hasn't been much time for drawing faces but my iPad is great for spontaneous portrait opportunities. Tomorrow I will be boarding a plane and bringing Olivia and Henry home to Oregon for a week long visit. ☺️❀️❀️ We're going camping .... πŸ”₯β˜€οΈπŸœπŸπŸŽ£.... 😳😬😜. I'll let you know how it goes. Fire, bugs, marshmallows and tent poles the real deal 😎 iPad painting in Procreate over a photograph, photographer unknown.


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This is Laverne. She makes muffins. Sometimes she bakes a wedding cake if a customer requests her expertise. 😬 She's very Paleo in attitude but in her eating habits she's sugar free, vegan and pescetarian. More precisely she's pescapollitarian and gluten free and only has sugar on her Cheerios. Believe it or not she's in pretty high demand for making custom wedding cakes.πŸ™ˆ Well actually I guess that shouldn't be a surprise to any of us considering the dietary insanity that is a part of our current 21st-century "I have special needs" culture. No offense to anybody who requests caffeine free, lactose free, sugar-free (sweetened but no artificial sweetener please), lukewarm coffee in a special BPA free mug that you bring to Starbucks every time you order. Laverne runs one of those food carts that are so popular here in Portland Oregon and I made the mistake last week of getting a muffin on my way to work. I gasped when I opened the bag and saw that it was as flat as a pancake, smelled like fish and had the texture of salt water taffy. I offered it to the stray dog that hangs around the garbage cans in the back of the building but one sniff and he ran off with his tail between his legs. I tossed it over the fence and I saw a cat grab it and run off and hide under the bushes with it. Cats are so predictable. 😏Anyway enough said about Laverne's employment and on to what a fabulous sitter she was for this portrait. I stared at her amazing eyebrows for half an hour trying to get the arch and the peaks just perfect. Her hair actually looks like that. Not so much individual hairs but more of a helmet, jet black and immobile except when she threw back her head and laughed at my jokes.πŸ˜†πŸ˜‚ Then it kind of wobbled and tilted left. πŸ™† We had a lot of fun and actually ended up spending the afternoon together playing gin rummy and eating salted peanuts. A side note on the painting process: I was using my iPad and making a particular effort to use only values to create form. Ivy recorded a lesson for our Paint and Pixels class which has helped me tremendously to forgo using lines when trying to create form. Huge progress for me! πŸ‘πŸ‘


I spent my birthday studio time yesterday painting Annabel and Celine. All digital, no mess or need to fret over mistakes. We hit the undo button about 600 times but who cares?!πŸ˜†πŸ˜‚πŸŽ‰ We had a bite of birthday cake every time to celebrate how easy it all was to create their beautiful portraitsπŸŽ‚!!! Annabel and Celine are twins. Can you tell? πŸ‘― They deny it all the time which is troubling to their parents but as a therapist I totally get it.😏We all like to feel unique and special. That's perfectly normal.😎 Not too different mind you 😜 nor too average either.πŸ‘­ So they compare details about themselves, noting the differences as though this might convince their Mom and Dad that they are individuals rather than a unit. For one thing Annabel is tall and Celine not so much. Celine has a fuller bosom and Annabel has rather wispy breasts. Both are very smart but one is a math genius the other a musical prodigy. Annabel loves her Yellow Finch Marvin while Celine adores her Scarlet Finch Mr. Finch. This comparing and celebrating of differences is part of what we do in therapy. Mind you this is not what their parents think we're doing 😬😢 Notice the braid in their hair.... not two braids but one. They kind of scoot along sideways when they walk so they can see where they're goingπŸ™ˆ They're a great team but truthfully I think its psychically damaging when their parents make them do this. Anyway enough about Annabel and Celine's issues! They are happy girls and manage quite well in spite of their challengesπŸ‘― and were stunning models for my portrait! **inspired by artist Gabriel Pacheco**


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Anya, Bitsy and Carmen are all feeling sad about the loss of Bitsy's pet Pomeranian. It was a devastating loss to the entire family. Peter the Pomeranian had been walking to the pet store for his morning coffee treat and a bicycle rode up behind him without warning and the rider yelled "ON YOUR LEFT!" and Peter collapsed gasping on the spot having had an apparent heart attack. The girls were waiting at the bus stop right there on the corner and saw the entire drama as it occurred. You can imagine the scene of utter hysteria that followed as Carmen attempted to revive Peter to no avail. πŸ™ˆπŸ™ŠπŸ˜·πŸ™€πŸ’”


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Teresita has been languishing in my studio for about 2 months. She initially introduced her as an underpainting in oils about 6 rows below. Now she's at least gained a bit of color 😳 I admit I applied the color myself and although I know she isn't any sort of "normal" looking girl what else can you expect? Which is what i told her when she looked in the mirror then turned to me with a horrified look. The smeared lipstick wasn't my fault. She did that herself with a tissue while trying to lighten the color a bit. I think it looks fabulous but she was all annoyed and complaining about "people who don't know what they're doing with color". Oh let me clarify.... She's Mindy's new roommate. They both work at Molly's salon though Teresita does eyelashes and nails😳. She believes her studies at nail school prepared her to be a "color specialist." Whatever she believes is ok with me though I didn't allow her to change any of my fabulous color selections for her portrait. She's a work in progress in more ways than one! Just like me!! πŸ˜‚


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This is a rare sighting of Abigail in her pink striped pajamas. Although she lives just up the hill I've never actually seen her outdoors during the winter months. She is I think by nature a sun loving creature preferring to flutter about tending her magnificent garden during the long summer days. Sometimes I've wondered if perhaps she sleeps out of doors under the azalea bushes during the month of August. I myself am in the garden at first light and often see her at daybreak completely immersed in the Honeysuckle that nearly covers the east side of her house. I mean literally she's leaning so far into the tangled vine that you can barely see her at all. I kinda stare at moments like that because I can almost swear that I saw her at nightfall doing something similar amongst the late blooming pink Azaleas that bank the terrace on the south side. She has many animals though no cats of course or dogs for that matter. The birds seem completely at ease in her presence. I've even seen humming birds use her beehive hairdo as a rest stop during a busy day of nectar hunting. Chickadees are amazingly intelligent birds who use communal language within their large family to alert one another to danger, intruders or in Abigail's case that she is a walking bird-feeder when holding apple slices and sunflower seeds in her cupped hands. That's when I laugh out loud though with my hand covering my mouth so as not to alert Abigail to my observations. The little chickadees call out to one another apparently ringing the dinner bell because they converge in a cloud of gray and black feathers flitting around her hands and landing with their tiny feet clinging to her billowing pink striped pajamas as they each wait their turn for the tasty treat she has offered them. Magical. Yesterday when I saw her she was standing perfectly still amongst dozens of yellow butterflies wearing a set of polkadot wings herself as though she could no longer bear to be cooped up alone indoors and wanted to hail some of her be-winged friends. I love my neighbor Abigail.


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I had to gently cajole this one into the house with promises that I would immediately release her into the garden the instant I finished her painting. I found her hiding under the ancient stand of cedar trees that run along the edge of the property. She's quite tall with an exquisite set of antlers perched regally upon her head so it was impossible for her to stand upright in my studio. Actually I think it turned out to be a happy accident that she had to lean forward in her pose because she has the most delicate neck I've ever seen. Unfortunately she bumped her left antler on my chandelier which caused her to become rather skittish and jumpy. She didn't talk, just made these odd clicking noises in various musical sounding tones. She's covered in feathers and fur with carved bones and polished shells throughout her hair. As I describe her I realize she's not indigenous to this part of the country or perhaps to any world that is known to me. The painting process was a rather drawn out affair due to the fact that I was using oil paint for the first time but once she settled down we both relaxed into a comforting, almost meditative silence. When the painting was complete I led her out to the garden and gave her some apples and figs. She looked down at me with her bright eyes and I swear to goodness she made a little curtsy before turning away and disappearing beneath the cedars trees.


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This young woman is a small oil painting done on collaged cardboard covered in walnut ink. I've had this blank substrate in my purse for ages thinking I would use it to practice drawing while on a break at work. But instead I pulled it out and secretly did a very quick drawing of a woman I spotted at the library. Our library is not very large so there are many shelves only partially filled with books. I was in the G section of fiction looking for a book by Neil Gaiman when I looked up and saw her queenly forehead and aquiline nose two aisles over in what I knew to be the romance novel section. There was something about her face that struck a chord in my heart and for a brief moment I actually thought I heard the melancholy sound of a cello's deep and soulful notes. She was holding an open book in her hands and gazing off towards the window. I quickly pulled myself together and moved a few steps further into the aisle where I could better see her face but she could not see mine. She stood so still and intent in her reverie that I could sense she was gazing inward rather than out the window. I knew at once that my simple line drawing was a mirror of her heart and I felt a rush of gratitude for the courage I have found to make art. Each time I begin a piece I do so with naΓ―vetΓ©, innocent to what darkness or light may be unearthed, resurrected or discovered within myself.