Thursday, June 30, 2011

10 things I learned at the Lucky Mutt Strut last Sunday...

Last Sunday, I participated in the MaxFund's Lucky Mutt Strut. It's a two-mile (one mile if you're very small or very old, or very lazy, or MAYBE if you only have three legs) jaunt around Washington Park in Denver, and all the proceeds go to the benefit of the MaxFund Shelter.

My feline overlords have SEVERELY vetoed any dogs coming home. They do NOT, however, seem to care WHAT I do with my time OUTSIDE of the house (as long as it does not involve playing with Princess, the next-door cat who keeps stepping on their turf). So I headed out to get some photos, some exercise, and some business contacts, probably in that order. And I ended up learning some VERY important things from "going to the dogs."

So here they are:

#10--After you've gotten your exercise, a nap is very well-deserved, as demonstrated by Elliott here. And a REAL friend is someone who will carry you WHILE YOU NAP.

He's adoptable, by the way! Go to and type in "Elliott" under the name field.

#9--You can actually make some VERY beautiful things from your deceased pet's remains.
THIS WAS A TOTAL SHOCK TO ME. You see, my first exposure to the whole dead-animal thing was pictures of Egyptian MUMMIFIED CATS. Ewwwwwww.

And I LOVE all the stuffed animals at the Natural History Museum, but the whole idea of keeping something around that would STILL be shedding hair, even after death, is just RIDICULOUS to me! And...weenie-dog-shaped urns full of Spot's ashes...ugh.

But Karen at Pet Memorial Glass and Jewelry had some beautiful necklaces and prism-type things, some of which had ashes incorporated into the designs and some had pet hair. Not exactly my thing, but not quite as disgusting as I had expected! You can check it out at:

#8--Scottie dogs do NOT only come in black.

This is like hearing that wearing white after labor day is RECOMMENDED. After meeting Cooper, who was this odd pale Golden-Lab sort of color, I found out from his owners that Scotties can be black, wheaten, or brindle. (To my credit, I did NOT ask if he had fallen into a tub of bleach.)

#7--Even though you think you may be in good shape, you can still be easily humiliated in a two-mile course by an Australian Shepherd with three legs.
At least, that was my personal experience...

#6--If you don't happen to HAVE any dogs at home, the swag bag you receive when you cross the finish line will probably not be very relevant.
Luckily, my friend Laura happened to get a whole bunch of cat-specific things in her bag, so I could swap out the dog biscuits/chew toys/pig ears for some sort of organic cat snacks. These have turned my cats into yowling crack-addicts every time I inadvertently get NEAR the cat-snack drawer.

#5--My cats are NOT the only pets around with first and last names (case in point: Gabriella Gewurztraminer, a tiny toy something-dog whose name weighs more than she does).
I DO, however, believe they are the only pets around with KUNG FU names. Smokey is The Fuzzy Whirlwind of Pain and Windy is The White Paws of Death.

Match that, Gabriella!

#4--GoodTimes Burgers makes a DOG DESSERT.
REALLY. It's called the PawBender--and is a dog-safe version of frozen yogurt, but with dog biscuits on top.

I cannot let the cats know about this, or they will start lobbying for equal treatment.

#3--Don't leave your swag bag lying around on the ground where a chihuahua can pee on it.
The hard lessons of experience...let's just say that Darius has otherwise LOVELY social skills. He just WANTED those organic cat-crunchies, I guess. Maybe it's like spitting on the last piece of pie so nobody else will want it.

Darius is also adoptable. Go to and type in Darius in the name field.

#2--Sometimes the water in the gutter JUST TASTES BETTER than the water that's specially put out in dog bowls.
Again, just something I seemed to observe.

#1--If you have to go, there's no time like the present.
And don't be shy about it. That's what plastic bags are for.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Painting as an act of faith...oh, and zombies

There's a good part and a bad part to this, and they're connected, at least in my mind. My painting here, called "Dappled Night," is part of the good part.

But to get there, you have to start with the bad part. Here it is.

What I remember of my morning started at dusk.
I found myself rushing down a dark alley searching out a hiding place. At last, I located an unlocked door and dashed in, to find I was in a supermarket. Sure, it was a burnt-out, Third-World-looking supermarket with a lot of empty shelves, and there were a bunch of other, raggedly-dressed people in there with the same idea I had.

But compared to getting eaten by zombies in the streets, this was AWESOME! We could just hole up, grab the remaining twinkies and a pint and wait for this whole thing to blow over. How's THAT for a slice of fried gold?

Then I realized the walls and all the shelves were made out of CORRUGATED CARDBOARD, old bend-y cardboard that's been left out in the rain and almost the consistency of porridge.

I don't know what your zombie apocalypse nightmares are like, but mine SUCK.

They usually go like this:

I've FINALLY found a place to hide, but it's ALREADY occupied, usually by some scary little-girl zombie that looks like a cross between the Olsen Twins and Gollum.

So I bar the door. And I look around for something to take off the zombie's head. And, MIRACLE OF MIRACLES, there's a GIANT BATTLE AXE. With a really long handle. I grab it and feel the comforting heft of it in my hand. It's SO much better than I had expected.

Maybe there is a kind, loving God after all!

I feel hope and joy and regain my faith that life is full of promise!


Of course, during the split-second that all of this takes, Mary-Kate/Ashley/Gollum/Smeagol easily shoves aside the giant bureau that I used to bar the door and pounds into the room. I notice, as I shift the battle axe from hand to hand, getting ready to swing, that she's also five feet taller and three hundred pounds heavier than she was when I last saw her.

Then I realize that my battle axe has turned into a Twizzler.

Yes, you read that right. A TWIZZLER. Or a Red Vine. Really, does it matter which? Can you get any LESS threatening than a Twizzler? You can't even poke someone's EYE out with it. Plus, although they are very tasty and chewy and red, Twizzlers are likely to be less appetizing for zombies than my intestines. As I'm about to find out.

So that's usually where I wake up.

This is NOT a happy start to the day. How can I trust ANYTHING? My battle axe turned into a FREAKING TWIZZLER on me!

But there was a point to this (besides the rather obvious conclusion that you should NOT eat an entire box of Twizzlers all by yourself late at night while watching "The Walking Dead"). And it has to do with the artistic process.

At some point in the past, I lost my faith in my ability to create artistic beauty. When I started a painting or a sculpture or a written piece, I would be fine for awhile, all caught up in the initial excitement of making it. Then, somewhere in the middle of the process, I would look at it and it seemed UGLY. POINTLESS. USELESS.

Like a Twizzler, when what you needed was a battle axe.

So I'd stop making whatever creative thing I was working on. And, in the nature of inanimate things (and something which I HATE about them), the piece did NOT finish itself. It stayed ugly, pointless, and useless, until I tossed it out or stuffed it under the crawl space (incidentally cluttering up the ONLY zombie-proof room in our house).

Sometime in the past year, I got my faith back. And I did it by painting. Just by painting through the OHMYGOD WHAT THE HELL IS THIS MISBEGOTTEN SORRY-ASS HIDEOUS IDEA, LET'S GO AWAY AND DRINK OURSELVES INTO OBLIVION AND FORGET IT stage. And amazingly, I came out on the other side, with images that even exceed my imagination.

It happens every single time.

It's not always easy, but there is an unasked-for grace that emerges through the artistic process. I know that, if I put in the time and what my brother calls "pencil mileage," I will come out the other side with a thing of beauty.

It's nice to be awake!

Monday, June 27, 2011

King Leonidas vs. Voldemort?

Okay, so I had sort of FORGOTTEN about the Harry Potter movie coming out! I mean, I have read all the books MULTIPLE times. And seen ALL the movies.

But I have been movie-theater-challenged lately. After catching, then avoiding a few terrible movies (clue: anything this year with the words "green" or "transformers" in the title= terrible), Jon and I finally went to see a movie last week. In the theater.

We went to see "Super 8," which I LOVED, partly because (SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER--do not read this next sentence if you haven't seen the movie) one of the characters was E.T. on steroids, all muscular and lacking anger-management skills. And partly because the moviemakers were VERY good at capturing being an early teenager in the late 1970's. Which I was.

But that's NOT THE POINT of this post.

While we were lined up for $25.00 popcorn, I saw eight Harry Potter posters in the concession area--showing 4 characters who were allegedly forces of evil--Voldemort, Snape, Bellatrix and that blond kid whose early promise for evil has been unfortunately overshadowed by the creepy Twincest king Joffrey in "Game of Thrones"--um, what is his name? Oh yeah...Draco Malfoy. And 4 more characters were there , presumably on the side of good--
Hermione, and...


In this image, he looks like HE's on steroids with the muscles and potential anger-management-issues!

All I could think of was that the "THIS. IS. SPARTA!!!!" guy from "300" had somehow jumped ship and joined up with the Potter brigade in the Hogwarts war. You know the one, the Scottish guy who looked great in a loincloth and then Hollywood management put him into clothes and shaved his beard and inflicted him on us in about 20 romantic comedies...It was kind of a tragedy...Gerard Butler, that's the guy.

So ANYHOW, we asked the popcorn lady who it was and she answered...



Neville has always been my favorite character, with his unmanly love of plants and his weak chin and general side-kicky comic relief nature. And I couldn't help wondering,


Clearly, I am going to be spending the next two weeks re-reading all the books!


Friday, June 24, 2011

13th Annual Take Your Dog to Work Day...

I just found out it's the 13th Annual Take Your Dog to Work day.


Then I realized I DON'T HAVE A DOG. And I work out of my house.

So I improvised. Here is Smokey, with her furry butt planted firmly in my painting palette.

It does not always pay OFF to have the cats at work. Often I will find little multicolored pawprints around the house, from when they have "helped" me paint something. Or bizarre Facebook posts from where they have had access to the computer. And I can sometimes fall into the kitten time warp (see earlier post about Lost Time Phenomena explained), which apparently is a weapon of grown cats, as well.

But I usually love it! I like having the company. I think it makes me MORE productive.

Apparently Pet Sitters International (PSI) agrees; they have been advocating pet acceptance in the workplace since 1999 with Take Your Dog to Work Day.

And it's today--June 24!

Apparently nearly one in five companies in the US allow pets in the workplace on a regular basis--even large places like Google and Amazon! Some places even have dog fashion shows, photo contests, adopt-a-thons, and fundraisers for local shelters and rescue organizations!

Smokey and Windy are not ALL that impressed by the hoopla.

After ALL, they are CATS.
And they are at my workplace EVERY SINGLE DAY.

But I guess they don't begrudge dogs STARTING to get some sort of workplace acceptance too.

For 7 rules for success on bringing your dog to work, follow this link:

And have a productive, happy (and furry) Friday!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Lost time phenomena explained...

After I hit the farmer's market this weekend, I also went to the MaxFund's grand opening of their new cat shelter, on 10th Avenue!

I went in, intending to get some photos, leave my business card, and head home with plenty of hours in the day left to paint.

But my friend Laura said "Oh, the kittens haven't moved over to the new facility yet! You should go check out the kittens at the regular shelter!"


I walked in to the kitten room, after a short detour with the FIV cats (MR. WONDER...if you are in the market for a LOVELY cat and you don't have any other cats. JUST SAYING...).

There was PLENTY OF TIME. Maybe it was 2:30.


I sort of remember Chocolate, a tiny black kitten, crawling into my lap and falling asleep. And I have a vague impression of Bo, Flopsy, Mopsy, Hope, Melissa, Nala, EJ, Oreo, and I'm sure a few whose names I missed, madly chasing Kitten Mittens and feathers on the ends of sticks.

And then it was immediately 4:00 AND THE SHELTER WAS CLOSING.

So I got no painting done because I was ABDUCTED BY KITTENS.

The photo is of Flopsy, one of the culprits.

If you are in the market for a pet, you should definitely get one from a shelter.

But BE WARNED. You should also schedule PLENTY OF TIME.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Farmer's markets, guerilla marketing, and ice cream...

This weekend, I had a FANTASTIC time visiting the Cherry Creek Farmer's Market!

I am not TYPICALLY a Farmer's Market Person. Although I love them, I usually find myself getting too distracted with painting or writing or playing the bass or reading email to get out of the house before 2 pm. In case you are someone like me, THAT is about the time all those farmers have packed up their produce and headed back to Sedalia or the Western Slope. Farmer's markets tend to be a rather early-morning/early afternoon affair.

But this year, farmer's markets are part of my business plan. So I am up and about, heading to them a few times a week.

Why? Because I have NO MONEY for marketing my pet portrait business.

No tengo dinero, all you glossy magazines that want to sell me expensive ads.

But what I DO have is a relatively outgoing personality, a nice digital camera, and a business card with a great portrait of Bella, the chihuahua, that I painted this spring. And I also have NOTICED that people with dogs LOVE to go to farmer's markets and take their dogs. They're also VERY happy to talk about their dogs and let me take photographs and usually they're very interested in my work once they see how Bella's portrait looks!

That's Bella's portrait in this post, by the way. The painting is called "The sun rises and sets on Bella." Which is a TOTALLY accurate statement.

So I get to walk around farmer's markets, talk to nice people about their animals, take EXCELLENT photos of said animals (even though it might be a bit embarrassing for THEM, with me getting on the GROUND to take pictures and blocking traffic, etc.--I am a VERY good pet photographer. Which helps! It's important to get good photos for my paintings!) and usually leave people with my business card.

Of course, what MIGHT have gone into a marketing budget is now going into drinks and snacks for me (They had SEA SALT CARAMEL ICE CREAM! I am NOT kidding you! It was VERY difficult trying to decide between sea salt caramel and CAP'N CRUNCH ice cream, which is apparently made of all the sugary stuff that gets left at the bottom of the Cap'n Crunch bag, blended into ice cream!).

Besides, you still have to EAT, whether you're home playing the bass in your underwear or out doing guerrilla marketing!

And, regardless of whether people actually BUY my paintings or not, I still NEED models. So I came home Saturday with LOADS of photos of dogs. I learned a lot. I found French bulldogs, Shiba Inus, and Great Bernards, which are apparently a cross between a Great Pyrenee and a Bernese Mountain Dog. And I have BEAUTIFUL photos of all of them, just waiting to be converted into beautiful paintings!

I can see no downside, except for possibly having to buy LARGER clothes!

There's another farmer's market today...

I wonder what kind of ice cream I should try?

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Windy's Santeria Cat Shrine

This morning, I was sitting at my computer, wondering what to write, when Windy jumped up on my art table and started drinking OUT OF MY PAINT WATER, which is FULL of acrylic and which cannot be very good for little indoor cats.

She is TERRIBLE about doing that. She's not interested in drinking water out of HER BOWL, although she loves it out of the tap and she ESPECIALLY likes to watch when I fill up a large water bottle from our big five-gallon dispenser. Because it bubbles and makes weird Sea Monster noises and she can pretend she's Jacques Cousteau. (I swear, I am NOT MAKING THIS UP.)

Anyow, weird water features and drinking out of water she's NOT SUPPOSED TO BE DRINKING FROM is Windy's amusement park. Along with any earrings, wedding rings, LiveStrong bracelets, pieces of pastel, gym passes, drivers licenses, etc. that she can find and play soccer with, until they disappear under the couch.

Windy, like many children who are confined indoors, is very good at using her imagination and improvising.

So I decided to show you Windy's Santeria Cat Shrine.

It's a little different from Smokey's.

First of all, the whole color scheme is different. Windy, if she were human, would be a DRAG QUEEN. She has that whole Priscilla, Queen of the Desert sense of style. So her piece is done in shades of lime, ultramarine and magenta.

Then I threw in lots of gold paint and glass jewels and dangly earrings. And, of course, paper clips.

Plus, I think her whole expression here looks just like Terence Stamp's character's perpetual expression in Priscilla...

But no false eyelashes here. Hers are TOTALLY REAL.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Smokey's Santeria Cat Shrine

And...after having SAID all of that about the Santeria Cat Shrines, a picture is worth a thousand words.

Here's Smokey's completed shrine. You can see that we have ACTUAL plumbing pipes (unUSED, in case you are wondering) as part of the whole water feature theme. I really love the way her fur glows in this painting. She is a VERY silver cat in real life, so I mixed some aluminum powder with the paint when I painted her fur and it really shines! Using the mixed media and wood panels, rather than canvas, really frees me up, expression-wise!

If you also have a cat that you worship, and would like me to construct their very own shrine for you, please contact me!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

How the pet portraits got started...

Technical difficulties have arisen. I have tried TWICE to upload an unintentionally hilarious video of me painting something I call a Santeria Cat Shrine while my cat, Smokey, supervises. No success either time, which I find crushing after my easy picture upload of last night.

Clearly, this picture of Smokey as my muse (along with Olivia the pig) is a marginally-related substitute. So I will just describe the video to you and ask you to exercise your imagination!

The video's not hilarious because of the painting or the cat. It's hilarious because the whole time, you can hear the cameraperson repeating, in a more and more disgruntled voice, "Look at the camera. LOOK AT THE CAMERA." Then you can hear me saying to Smokey (trying not to move my lips because there was a CAMERA on me, DUH, getting a nice profile shot), "Can't you HEAR HER? Smoke, you DUMMY! Look at the camera!"

Of course, it was really ME who was supposed to be looking at the camera the whole time. I look like an idiot and Smokey looks like the superior being that she is.

SUPERIOR being the operative word.

This brings me back to the Santeria Cat Shrines and how the pet portraits got started.

I unexpectedly acquired some raw materials that I needed to, as they say in the business world, "re-PURPOSE." They were a gift from somebody in the family, somebody we all love and who had apparently temporarily lost their mind, which is why this person remains nameless. But they were the type of gift, like chlamydia, or a ricochet regifting of the gift you regifted to someone else three years ago, that NOBODY REALLY WANTS.

They were hideous. They looked suspiciously like old cabinet doors that a three-year old had covered with ivory paint and crackle-coat, and had then finger-painted flowers on them. Big smudgy lilac flowers.

Even Gertrude Knox, the retired spinster teacher in Idaho Springs who babysat kids in the 70's and fed them things like canned peaches with Italian dressing for lunch (which is so bizarre that I can REMEMBER this fact even FORTY YEARS LATER and I was NOT one of the kids she babysat)... even Gertrude would have REFUSED to have these things in her house. They were THAT ugly.

We couldn't exactly get rid of them, for political reasons. But there was NO WAY we were hanging them on a wall. So we stashed them in a closet while I thought of a way to turn them into something more aesthetic. Finally I thought about making them into shrines for the cats. Not necessarily the whole sad memorial/ancestor-worship type of shrine that gets constructed post-mortem, but something showing my appreciation of the animal NOW. Something modern, but still showing this weird type of worshipful relationship that we tend to have with our cats.

Now dogs are all about YOU, the human.

I'm sorry to break this to you, but cats could REALLY NOT CARE LESS about YOUR personal needs. What they WANT is someone to WORSHIP them. Mindless minions to bring them fresh tuna every 15 minutes. Somebody who can turn on the laptop so they can WARM THEIR BUTTS ON IT and send weird updates to Facebook pages. A lackey with thumbs who can hold the door open for a half-hour or so while the cat deliberates about his options.

And finally, somebody to ADORE the artistry of the scratch-marks on the ITALIAN LEATHER COUCHES. I'm talking to YOU, here, Smokey. Every day that you keep your claws is a gift from God.

But my point was how the cat is the OVERLORD in that whole relationship, no matter how much the "owner" pretends that they have the upper hand. Anyhow, eventually I started thinking about this related to the Santeria religion and decided to modify the idea of a shrine so that it included cat-worship.

Plus, I could cover up those freaky lilac flowers with some bright paint. So I did, and the panels morphed into portraits of the animal in the center panel, surrounded by things the animal likes.

For instance, Windy, my feisty calico, LOVES paper clips and shiny things. Basically, anything that is non-edible (hair, potting soil, rocks) and, even better, makes a jingling sound when you bat it (earrings, paper clips, staples, safety pins, bottle caps, etc.) is fair game for Windy to first play soccer with, and then eat, providing she has not lost it under one of the Italian leather couches first.

So her portrait is surrounded with paper clips, glass beads, and earrings. (I used artistic license and decided to omit the hair and the potting soil.)

Smokey, on the other hand, adores a good water feature. Any time Jon or I enter the bathroom, Smokey pushes the door open and then leaps onto the sink. Then she insists that we turn the water on for her. Sometimes it's to actually drink, although more often, it's just for her to ADMIRE. Or to slap at the water drops so they shoot onto the mirror, just in case her minions need more practice with the Windex and paper towels.

So her portrait is surrounded by glass beads, painted to look like drops of water and bubbles, coming out of an actual TAP.

When Jon, my husband, saw these, he thought they were great! He thought a lot of people would like something like that. Probably not people who actually PRACTICE Santeria, and possibly not people who get offended at the idea of lightheartedly erecting a shrine to a cat! But still, a lot of people...

So that's how the pet portrait work got started. It's changed a bit from the Santeria shrines, but I still do those on special order!

Excuse me, but Smokey is insisting that it's time to sit on the laptop...aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaasssssssssssddddddddddddddfffffffffff

At least it's not my Facebook status!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Much easier than expected!

Wow! Uploading a photo was SOOOO much easier than I expected!

So this is a photo of me with Norma and Megan Smith, at Megan's Bat Mitzvah celebration on May 20! Megan is holding an original painting I did, called "Megan's Garden." One of the themes for her mitzvah was bees--and Norma, her mom, also told me that Megan loved gerbera daisies!

When Norma first contacted me about the painting, I DID NOT GET BACK TO HER in ANY sort of a TIMELY MANNER. Because I had NO idea if I could paint a picture of a bee that was not: a) totally cartoon-ish, to the point where I was disinterested and where DreamWorks and Jerry Seinfeld would come after me for copyright infringement ANYWAY, or b) absolutely TERRIFYING, like something out of SWARM, which would send a thirteen-year-old screaming for cover and hopelessly emotionally scarred.

I tried to call around to relatives and find out whether Megan had any PETS, since that's what I'm focusing on now. And, of COURSE, she HAD had a kitty-cat, which, UNFORTUNATELY had exited this earthly plane in December, due to old age. And it was kind of a PAINFUL subject, so I wouldn't have been earning any brownie points for poking at that wound!

So I found out, much against my will, that I could paint bees! And gerbera daisies! Honestly, at this point, I don't know why I ever had any doubts! That is one awesome bee! (I know, I know--you can't see it very well in this photo. Which is why you need to check out my Facebook gallery or my website for a detail!)

So if you would like to commission a painting for a special occasion, I am up for it, now that I am a honeybee expert!

Although I don't know how I'd do if your theme was stinkbugs or vultures. You might not hear from me for awhile until I figured it out!

Getting started on things...

Yesterday was my 47th birthday. In the usual perpetual spirit of things like birthdays and New Year's resolutions, I FINALLY started writing on this blog. I had only set up the account a YEAR AND A HALF AGO, which was TECHNICALLY a start of sorts. But not anything substantial.

So here goes.

To be honest with you, I'm not 100% behind the concept. First of all, the word 'blog" is quite a warthog of a word, if the warthog truly IS the ugliest example of the animal kingdom. I think it sounds like something you would extract from the inner portions of a whale to make STAYS for women's girdles. Or something that you would have removed by some sort of overpriced medical specialist.

Just saying. Crappy sounding word.

Anyway, in publishing, where I've been comfortably nesting for the past ten years, everybody talks about the necessity to BLOG BLOG BLOG. As if everyone has a WHOLE BUNCH OF INTERESTING AND/OR USEFUL THINGS TO SAY.

I'm not sure that I will always have a lot of interesting things to say. But I do have quite a lot of nice pictures. And I thought maybe people would be interested in seeing them.

At least it's a start.

Now I just have to figure out how to upload the pictures!